Keeping your teeth and gums healthy is not only an exercise in regular brushing and flossing — diet plays a part as well. Most dentists will tell you that foods with high acidity and sugar can wreak havoc on your teeth, causing long-term and sometimes irreparable tooth decay.
But just as a nutritionist would say to someone watching their waistline that almost all foods are OK to consume in moderation, so too, is the case with oral hygiene.
Nevertheless, CTVNews.ca has compiled a list of foods that dentists tend to keep off their grocery list:
Dark soft drinks
Toronto dentist and prosthodontist Dr. Rose Marie Jones says she won’t keep dark-coloured caffeinated soda in her home, not just due to the high sugar content, but the phosphoric acid content, which is lacking in clear soft drinks.
“It actually strips the calcium out of teeth,” Dr. Jones said in an interview with CTVNews.ca. Phosphoric acid, she says, is “actually used in a dental office to … remove calcium from the teeth so that we can bond plastic material onto the teeth.” The stripping of calcium can cause visible damage in the form of white spots on the teeth.
Jones said that bacteria that live in the mouth also feast on the sugar, which keeps the “acid environment” in the mouth over longer periods of time and causes cavities.
Sipping these types of soft drinks throughout the day is a dental no-no, Jones says, because it maintains “a perfect environment for the pathogens to continue to destroy the teeth,” causing bacterial buildup in the form of plaque.
If you have a hankering for a burger and fries, and want to wash it all down with something fizzy, Jones acknowledges that a glass of dark soda isn’t so bad as an occasional treat.
“The good news about the human body is that we have the capacity to repair,” she says.
Jones recommends chewing gum with Xylitol, a natural sweetener that helps neutralize pH levels in the mouth, or brushing your teeth right after you’ve consumed soda.
They might be a nice small treat to suck on after a big meal or while at work, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any in Dr. Rohit Arora’s pantry. Dr. Arora, who runs a family dentistry practice in Toronto, says they wreak havoc on teeth, and he even avoids giving them to his own children.
“It just sticks to your teeth and it produces a lot of acids,” he said in an interview with CTVNews.ca. “That acid weakens the enamel, and the bacteria that is already present in your mouth, can easily attack that area, causing cavities.”
Similar to sipping on pop drinks throughout the day, the time spent consuming a hard candy makes them even more problematic.
“You’re constantly sucking on them, as opposed to something you just gulp down,” Arora said.
Fruit juices are very sweet and acidic, Arora says, which is a bad combination. Apple juice and orange juice usually contain a pH of between 3 and 3.5, classifying them as “highly acidic,” Arora said. It doesn’t harm the teeth if you have “one small cup a day,” Dr. Arora says, but after every meal, it’s bad. Arora said that many parents tend to think that by giving their children juice rather than pop, they’re providing the healthier option. Not so, says Arora. Fruit juice and soda pop are “equally harmful if you’re giving them as a drink every meal.”
It may be calorie-free, but Dr. Arora advises his patients not to get into the habit of chewing or consuming ice. “It’s a very common thing, people love ice water or ice in their drinks, and then they chew on it,” Arora said.
But the thermal difference between your body temperature and the ice can cause further complications, especially for those with fillings, Dr. Arora says.
“The filling material expands and contracts differently than your enamel,” Arora says. Similar to a pothole in winter, he adds, the different materials may not gel that well … “so the fillings just pop out.”
According to Arora, chewing on ice is also like biting down on rocks. “That causes a lot of damage. Chipped teeth and broken teeth.”
Dr. Arora says vinegar is one food to skip, even though nutritionists and dietitians swear by its health benefits.
Vinegar is “right up there along with juices and sports drinks” in terms of acidity, and is therefore breeding ground for bacteria and tooth decay.
If people still want to include the popular salad dressing ingredient in their diets, Arora suggests rinsing the mouth after consuming it or brushing the teeth as a “precautionary measure.”
So what is OK to eat? The Canadian Dental Association has a list of snacks that won’t harm your teeth.