How Certain Foods May be Risky for Dental Health

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The foods and beverages you consume not only affect your overall health, but your dental health as well. If you experience tooth sensitivity or yellowing, or if you seem to develop cavities frequently, what you eat and drink may be to blame.

An experienced dentist will help you narrow down the possible causes of dental symptoms. We can make recommendations about which foods to avoid. Regular dental checkups and cleanings are an important way to maintain healthy teeth and gums.

Dr. Paul Sussman - Center for Cosmetic Dentistry in Rochester, New YorkWe asked our own dentists and others from across the country to name some of the main culprits when it comes to food that is risky for your dental health.

"Spaghetti and meatballs with light, fresh pasta sauce made from tomatoes could actually contribute to bad breath and cavities. Tomatoes are acidic, and acids can build up in the mouth and can foster the growth of bacteria. Short-term, these bacteria can result in bad breath. They can also increase the risk of cavities long-term without proper dental hygiene.

"One of the best ways to prevent bad breath and decay, is to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Water rinses out the mouth and keeps bacteria from the foods we eat under control. So, when you're having your next pasta with red sauce, keep a glass of water handy to sip during dinner, and don't skimp on the refills afterward."

Dr. Paul Sussman
General & Family Dentist in Rochester, New York
Center for Cosmetic Dentistry

Dr. Nathan Tenney, Dentist at Desert Smiles in Glendale, Arizona"Sugar: We’ve heard since we were kids that sugar will rot your teeth. The bacteria in our mouths metabolize sugar as their fuel source. This produces an acid byproduct that breaks down teeth. Just like in kids, it can happen in adults. If you are enjoying a decadent dessert, sip water afterwards to help dilute the acid. The sooner you can brush your teeth after a meal, the better.

"Acidic foods like lemons and tomatoes: Acid melts away tooth structure. A dentist almost always knows when a patient loves lemons because you can visibly see the effects on the teeth. After eating acidic foods, drink water to help cleanse the mouth.

"Hard foods: Nuts, seeds, shells, olive pits, chewing ice etc can break or chip teeth. Most patients admit they had a feeling they shouldn’t be eating 'xyz' right before they broke their tooth. Excessively hard food can break the teeth which could result in needing crowns or fillings to restore dental health.

"The most important thing is everything in moderation. I’m not the kind of dentist that hands out toothbrushes at Halloween, but I do believe daily habits can contribute to or hinder oral health. Taking time to dilute sugary and acidic foods with a drink of water is a simple way to take care of your teeth."

Dr. Nathan Tenney
Dentist in Glendale, Arizona
Desert Smiles

Dr. Elisa Mello, dentist at NYC Smile Design"The biggest culprits are sugar, acids and length of contact time these are on your teeth.

  • Apples: surprisingly high in acid, which can erode your enamel and expose the underlying softer dentin, leading to teeth decay. Drinking or rinsing with water after eating an apple rinses off the acid.
  • Hard candy: hard structure can chip or fracture your enamel, tooth structure or restorations. The sugar in them can contribute to dental decay
  • Ice: while not exactly a food, many people consider it a healthy snack. But, like hard candy, it can chip or fracture your teeth, tooth structure or restorations.
  • Citrus foods/drinks: they are acidic, and the acid in them can erode your enamel which will expose the softer inner part of your tooth called dentin. Your teeth will then be more susceptible to decay and sensitivity.
  • Coffee and coffee beverages: These can stain your teeth and the sugar we add to them can lead to decay. Caffeine can also dry out your mouth, which can be uncomfortable.
  • Pickled vegetables: made with acidic vinegar and often sugar.
  • Sticky foods: dried fruits are considered by many to be a healthy snack, but their sticky consistency causes them to adhere to the tips and in between your teeth longer than crunchy food that is thoroughly chewed and then swallowed or smoother foods. Other foods that do this are starchy foods like bread, rice, potato chips and nachos. Peanut butter (which also often has sugar added to it) and jelly and jams fall into this category as well. They also act like a glue for bacteria. Since they are trapped on your teeth longer and break down into sugars, these can potentially damage your enamel, causing tooth decay and even periodontal (gum) problems due to plaque buildup.
  • Popcorn: this is a double whammy. It’s a sticky food with hidden hard kernels you can inadvertently bite down on and chip, fracture or break your tooth or restorations.
  • Seltzer water: is all the rage now! However, acidity from the citric and phosphoric acid used to create the bubbles can erode enamel as discussed above with acidic foods.
  • Soda/sports drinks: are usually sipped. Those containing sugar, then, are bathing your teeth in acidic water and sugar for a long period of time. This can really cause severe breakdowns in your enamel. Regular soda and diet sodas are still acidic, as they are made from seltzer water and can cause damage even if they do not contain sugar. The caffeine in colas can also dry out your mouth.
  • Alcohol drinks: dry out your mouth and can cause salivary flow reduction. Over time this can lead to dental decay and periodontal (gum) disease. Long-term heavy alcohol use will also increase your risk for oral cancer.
  • Salad dressing: uses acidic vinegar and sugar to flavor it."

Dr. Elisa Mello
Dentist in New York City
NYC Smile Design

During your routine exam, your dentist looks for early signs of problems, helping you address those issues before they worsen. To learn more about the experienced dentists at our Rochester practice, please call our team at 585-227-4390.