Your smile is one of the best things about you. You use it to say hello. You use it to show confidence. You use it to show people that you care. And you use it to outwardly reflect your inner happiness. When your teeth are healthy, you can shine that smile for the world without much thought. But unhealthy teeth are more than just a cosmetic problem—they affect your whole-body health. Here are three foods to avoid if you want healthy teeth.
Tooth decay is caused when acid-producing bacteria congregate in your mouth. The acid that this bacteria produces eats away at your enamel and causes cavities. Can you guess what food the bacteria in your mouth love most? Sugar. Sugar provides bacteria with a quick and easy food source that helps it to grow and multiply. And remember, sugar by any other name is still just sugar! This includes honey, molasses, corn syrup, and fructose. Even healthy-sounding “evaporated cane juice” is just a fancy way to say sugar! Sticky sugary foods go one step further. Your saliva is constantly working to neutralize the chemistry of your mouth, but when sticky sweets are stuck to your teeth, there is not much that it can do.
Crunching down on very hard foods is a great way to grind down your enamel and even break a tooth. A tooth that breaks below the gumline will most likely need to be removed. Common surprise culprits are unpopped popcorn kernels, cherry pits, bones, and hard breads. These foods are not normally a problem, so when we unsuspectingly chomp down on a popcorn kernel or a cherry pit, we aren’t ready for it and don’t cushion the bite. Take extra care with all foods that could contain a hard element. Other culprits are ice, hard candy, and nuts.
Beverages can be especially harmful to our teeth because they can have long exposure times as we leisurely sip our favorite drinks. Watch out for tooth-staining, enamel-eating beverages. These include sugary drinks such as juice, sports drinks, and sweet tea. They also include teeth-staining drinks such as coffee and red wine. Alcoholic beverages reduce the amount of saliva that your mouth needs to cleanse itself and neutralize acids. Finally, the number one tooth-destroying beverages: carbonated, acidic sodas and sports drinks, especially the sugary kinds.
You don’t necessarily have to swear off these foods forever. However, if you want to keep a healthy set of teeth for life, you should limit them as much as possible. When you do eat or drink them, use care and follow them up with a good teeth-brushing.
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