What we eat and drink has a powerful impact on our teeth. Even our kids’ baby teeth are tremendously affected by what they put in their mouths.
When consuming foods and drinks, the bacteria in our mouth converts sugars and carbs from the foods we eat into acids. Over time the acids begin to attack the enamel on our teeth, which starts the decay process.
One of the best ways to help your children have an early start at maintaining good oral health is to monitor their food choices. Knowing which foods to seek out, and which to keep off their plates is just as important to their overall oral health as brushing twice a day, flossing regularly, and keeping regular dental visits.
The Good Guys vs. the Bad Guys
If you are an expert in undergoing painful trips to the dentist office, and have irreversible damage that has been done to your teeth and gums, help prevent your kids from suffering through the same struggles.
Below is a list of foods that can stain and erode these versus those that can prevent or even help reverse damage.
Foods prone to stain and erode teeth:
- Citrus fruits and juices- grapefruit and lemon juice, in particular, are highly acidic and are more likely to erode tooth enamel over time.
- Chewy Candy- the stickier the candy, the worse it tends to be for your teeth. Extra chewy candies like taffy, caramels, sour patch kids, and tootsie rolls stick to (and between) teeth for a long time.
- Hard candy- dissolve slowly and saturate your mouth with sugars for several minutes at a time, allowing bacteria more time to produce harmful acid. Many hard candies are also flavored with citric acid.
- Pickles- the acid in pickles makes them a potential hazard to tooth enamel. As with anything, if we eat pickles in moderation, they aren’t likely to cause noticeable damage to our enamel overtime.
- Crackers- the refined carbohydrates found in many crackers (saltines in particular) quickly convert to sugar in the mouth, helping to created cavity-forming bacteria.
- Coffee/tea- Coffee and tea stains on teeth tend to be more persistent than tobacco stains and are more opposed to teeth brushing and more likely to become discolored again following a bleach treatment.
- Soda- It’s no secret that drinking too many sugary drinks (soda, sports drinks, juice, etc.) can create cavities. The acids found in carbonated soft drinks can harm teeth even more so than sugar. If consumed in large quantities, even sugar-free Diet Coke/Diet Pepsi can erode enamel (both contain citric and phosphoric acid).
- Wine- contains substances that produce tooth-discoloring pigments. Both red and white wines contain erosive acid, which allow stains from other foods or drinks to penetrate more deeply into the tooth enamel.
Foods that help reverse damage for a healthy smile:
- Water- water, like saliva, helps wash sugars and acid from our teeth. It also contains fluoride-a mineral that protects against tooth erosion and is found in toothpaste and some mouth washes.
- Sugarless gum- helps clean teeth by stimulating the creation of saliva. Saliva is nature’s way of washing away acids produced by the bacteria in your mouth. Many varieties of sugarless gum are sweetened with xylitol-an alcohol that reduces bacteria.
- Dairy- milk and other dairy products are the primary source of calcium which is important for healthy teeth. Calcium is the key ingredient in a mineral, known as hydroxyapatite which strengthens tooth enamel as well as bones.
- Leafy vegetables- typically require a lot of chewing which is actually good for your teeth. Eating a bowl of spinach is almost like running your teeth through the carwash because the chewing creates saliva, and the food itself physically scrubs your teeth as it’s mashed into smaller pieces.
- Strawberries- these summer berries contain malic acid- a natural enamel whitener.
How to make your own at-home whitening treatment:
- Crush 1-2 strawberries into a pulp
- Mix it with baking soda
- Spread it on your teeth using a soft toothbrush
- Leave on for 5 minutes, brush off, and rinse