An unhealthy diet can negatively affect your overall health and wellness. But have you ever considered how what you eat can cause problems for your teeth and gums as well?

At Timberhill Dental, we believe knowledge is power. We want our patients to be equipped with the information to make the best choices for their health. Today, we’re outlining the top 5 worst foods for your mouth, explaining why they’re dangerous for your dental health and what you should aim to eat instead.

First, let’s look at how food affects your dental health

When foods get caught in your teeth or sit on the surface of your teeth for too long, they can affect your dental health. The most common problems include enamel erosion, decay and cavities, dry mouth, and gum disease.

Although proper brushing and flossing can mitigate the negative dental effects of a poor diet, it’s not enough to completely diffuse the issue. To really take care of your teeth, you need to adopt a healthy diet, too.

Of course, we don’t expect you to completely cut all risky foods out of your diet, but it’s a good idea to limit your intake — especially when snacking.

Snack Attack — Why It’s Better to Only Eat at Meal Times

Tooth decay happens when your mouth experiences a higher than normal level of acidity for a long period of time. That’s the danger of snacking! When you snack throughout the day, your saliva can’t keep up with its job (remineralizing teeth, buffering acid, and clearing away food) and the result is tooth decay.

5 Foods that are dangerous for your teeth

1. Candy (especially hard or sour treats)

Candy (especially hard candy) dissolves slowly, saturating your mouth with sugar for a long time. Worse, many hard candies are coated with citric acid, which eats away at your teeth. Hard candy can also cause tooth chipping!

Sticky candy and sour candy are just as problematic. The high sugar content combined with their sticky nature means the sugars and acids adhere to your teeth, coating the surface.

The negative effects of candy on your dental health is what led our practice to create the Dollar$ Not Decay event. For over 15 years, we’ve offered Corvallis kids the chance to sell their Halloween candy to us for $2 a pound.

2. Dried fruit

Like sticky candy, dried fruit latches onto and between your teeth. It’s also both acidic and filled with sugar — the recipe for a tooth disaster!

Things like raisins, dried apricots, and dried mangos are especially problematic as many parents view them as a quick, easy, and healthy snack. Whether you’re eating it or sharing with your child, you’re likely not brushing your teeth directly after, meaning the sugar will sit in your mouth longer!

3. Citrus fruits

It may feel counterintuitive to view fruit as bad for your teeth, especially since fruit is loaded with health benefits. However, citrus fruits (like lemons, limes, grapefruits, and even tomatoes) are filled with acid which erodes and decays enamel.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid snacking on citrusy foods. Prolonged exposure just isn’t good for your teeth. And remember to drink plenty of water to wash away leftover acid.

4. White bread

Refined carbohydrates like white bread and crackers not only lack nutritional value, they’re also dangerous for your teeth.

As you eat these foods, enzymes in your saliva break down the starch into sugar. The result is a gummy, bready substance stuck between your teeth and fueling the growth of bacteria.

4. Sugary drinks

Just like food, the things you drink can cause problems to your mouth as well. There are a number of drinks you need to be wary of:

  • Sweetened coffee
  • Sports drinks (Gatorade)
  • Carbonated drinks (soda, cola)
  • Fruit juice
  • Alcohol

These drinks are filled with sugar, are highly acidic, and can even cause tooth stains. As a result, the erosive effect of these types of beverages can be truly drastic.

Additionally, be careful of biting down on and chewing ice as it can cause chipping and cracking in your teeth.

A quick recap: Limit these types of foods

Do your best to avoid foods that are… Because they can cause problems like…
Highly acidic Damaging tooth enamel and dissolving teeth, leading to decay
Stuffed with sugar Fueling reproduction of bacteria living in your mouth, which can cause cavities
Sticky & chewy Adhering to your teeth, providing a source for bacteria and contributing to gum disease
Starchy Spurring the growth of bacteria and causing cavities
Extremely hard Cracking and breaking teeth, allowing bacteria to enter and fueling gum disease

What to eat and drink instead

If you’re feeling limited by the list of dangerous foods above, try focusing instead on all the delicious things you can enjoy.

Important nutrients your teeth need to stay healthy, include:

  • Antioxidants
  • Calcium
  • Protein
  • Vitamins A, B, C, D
  • Fiber
  • Omega-3

These nutrients help maintain your tooth structure, support your immune function, and are found in a variety of delicious foods — do you have an idea of what some of these types of foods might be?

Take a look below at just a few of our favorite mouth-healthy foods and see if they match up with your guesses.

  • Leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, and kale (rich in calcium, folic acid, and vitamins)
  • Celery, apples and carrots (high in fiber and great for naturally scrubbing teeth)
  • Strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, etc. (berries are very high in antioxidants)
  • Garlic and onions (filled with vitamins and antibacterial properties)
  • Yogurt, milk, and cheese (packed with calcium and probiotics that help protect your mouth)
  • Whole grains (complex carbohydrates are full of vitamins and less digestible for bacteria)
  • Organic soy (choose an option without sugar)
  • Fish (lots of great vitamin D and omega 3!)
  • Shiitake mushrooms (these fun guys contain lentinan which helps stop plaque)

Let’s work together to keep your mouth healthy

Are you putting your food to work? Make sure you choose ingredients that help (not hurt) your teeth and gums.

Of course, eating mouth-friendly foods is just the first step in achieving total dental health. You also need to adopt smart preventive dental hygiene habits and see your dentist on a regular basis.

If it’s been awhile since your last check up or you’re worried about tooth decay, cavities, or gum disease, give us a call at (541) 754-0144 to schedule an appointment. We’d love to help you better understand how to care for your teeth and gums to make sure you’re on a path toward lifelong dental health.