Walking down aisles at the grocery can be overwhelming, and sometimes it’s hard to know which foods are healthy. It always pays off to check labels for high sugar content, high levels of acid, or ingredients you’ve never heard of, but here are some of our tips about foods to watch out for. Remember: it always pays to be mindful of what you take into your body! Whether a solid food, candy, soda, or sports drink, take the necessary steps to prevent unwanted conditions in any form that can damage your teeth. Keep reading to learn more from Dr. Amir Davoody, Dr. Rana Mehr, Dr. Thomais Ioannou, and Dr. Panagiotis Kyteas at Greater Houston Orthodontics about which foods pose a threat to your dental health.
What to Avoid
- Enemies of Enamel
- Surprisingly Sugary
- Bad for Breath
Enemies of Enamel
Any soda or sugary drink is an enemy of enamel. Some products aren’t so obvious though. Sports drinks can damage healthy teeth. Actually, “erode” is more like the term, especially around the brackets while wearing braces. These sorts of drinks erode your teeth by “demineralization,” or reducing the minerals in the outer tooth enamel and the dentin (“dentin” is a yellowish, calcified tissue underneath the tooth enamel). It doesn’t affect the enamel underneath the braces covered by the brackets.
Dental erosion is common. It happens when you lose tooth structure since acids dissolve enamel and dentin. When your teeth are exposed to an acidic substance like a sports drink, soda, or candy, dental erosion is not far behind. Everyone knows about candy and soda. Sports drinks, on the other hand, are not thrown into this group of tooth killers. And energy drinks and some flavored waters can be just as harmful if they contain citrus flavoring.
Another enemy of your enamel is alcohol. Most alcoholic drinks are very high in acid content. Mixed drinks made of soda or fruit juices typically have the most acid. If left on the teeth too long, acid can erode the enamel on your teeth, making you prone to disease-causing bacteria. Whether you can taste it or not, your alcoholic drink of choice most likely has sugar in it. Sugar is bacteria’s best friend. Bacteria feed on the sugar left on your teeth and leave acid behind. Additionally, many wines and spirits contain dyes that can stain your teeth. Avoid colorful drinks and red wines to keep your teeth bright and healthy. Drinking white wines causes no discoloration.
Smoothies out and about are deceptively sugary. The idea of blended fruit and ice is considered a healthy drink, but in many situations may not be the case. Menus at popular national smoothie bar chains often contain over double the recommended daily sugar intake. As you watch them make the drinks, notice few only use fresh or frozen fruit. Most use sugar flavored fruit syrups from a bottle that contains high amounts of sugar.
Like smoothies, juices also tend to have more than the recommended daily sugar content. Just because a drink on your grocer’s shelf has the name of a fruit in its title does not necessarily make it a healthy choice. All too often processed “juices” contain small quantities of actual juice and large amounts of processed sugar.
Another item you wouldn’t consider “sugary” are prepackaged lunches. Products such as “Lunchables” certainly have much to offer as far as convenience is concerned, but they can be a real dietary nightmare. The varieties that include both a dessert and a drink are double trouble. Pack your child’s lunch yourself; the extra time will be worth the peace of mind knowing their sugar consumption is within reasonable limits to promote long-term physical and dental health.
Finally, a truly surprising secret sugar –granola. Granola is another prime example of a food that is usually thought of as a healthy choice, when in fact the very opposite is closer to the truth. Although granola does offer useful fiber, any benefit is offset by the overwhelming amount of sugar coating the granola. Limit your granola to a small amount mixed with yogurt and choose wheat-based cereals over their granola-sugar-laden brother. Read the labels to determine sugar content before you buy.
Bad for Breath
Pasta sauce, coffee, cheese, and peanut butter are all sneaky culprits of bad breath. The proteins in cheese and peanut butter are guilty of attracting bad breath bacteria and staying in your mouth long after you eat them. Both tomatoes and coffee have a higher acidity, which can dry out the mouth, cause acid build-up and then foster the growth of bacteria.