Have you ever wondered if what you eat and drink can affect your teeth? Well, the short answer is YES. Here’s why.
Your teeth are made of up enamel, which helps coat and protect the surface and keeps damaging substances from penetrating the deeper, more sensitive areas of your teeth where the intricate nerves and blood supply to the tooth live. Without proper attention to your teeth and what keeps them healthy, your teeth may not last through your lifetime and without teeth it is difficult to maintain proper nutrition. When you remember that one of the main functions of your teeth is to help you chew your food, which is the first steps in proper digestion, you start to realize the importance of your teeth. Without food that is properly chewed, your stomach cannot properly dissolve the foods you consume and you may miss out on vital nutrients that your body needs for maximal health.
Here are a few different types of food and drink that can ruin those pearly whites…
1. Coffee not only stains your teeth, but is acidic and can erode the enamel of your teeth. Also, remember that adding crème or sugar increases the “empty calories” that you may consume in your diet. Very important to remember if you are watching your waistline
2. Alcohol can cause you to lose additional fluids due to its diuretic effects. Drying out your body dries out your mouth, so without adequate salivary flow you are more prone to cavities
3. Citrus juice, due to the acid content, can cause breakdown of enamel, not to mention the fact that you consume a lot more calories (about 2-3 times more) in a cup of juice than you would by eating a piece of fruit.
4. One 12-ounce can of soda may contain as much as 18 teaspoons or up to 1/3 of a cup of sugar. That sugar is a feeding ground for any bacteria that are present in your mouth causing rapid tooth decay and cavities.
5. Sports drinks are typically loaded with sugar, so don’t indulge in these if water is readily available.
1. Sticky foods like dried fruits tend to stick around in your teeth longer and can lead to the fruit’s sugar coating your teeth. Even though the sugar is fructose rather than glucose, sugar is still sugar!
2. Hard candy is made up mostly of, you guessed it, more sugar. So when in doubt, leave it out, as the sticky hard candy that sits on your teeth is an open invitation for more tooth decay.
3. Although ice eventually melts into water, chewing hard ice can cause teeth to crack and cause the enamel to have tiny cracks that are open areas for bacteria to enter, sugar to coat those areas, feed bacteria and erode your teeth – let the ice melt in your mouth and you are doing your teeth a favor by washing away and diluting the enemies of your teeth.
Okay, so you still want to enjoy life and still keep your teeth happy? Here are a few tips from the American Dental Association for taking good care of your teeth!
Tooth Care Guidelines
- Brush for at least two minutes with fluoride toothpaste and lots of fresh water
- Brush after each meal or a minimum of twice a day
- Prevent tooth decay from occurring between your teeth by flossing daily
- Use mouthwash or a dentist-prescribed oral rinse to protect your teeth and gums
- Scrape bacteria off your tongue with a scraper or by brushing it after you brush your teeth
- Drink lots of water daily to keep your saliva flowing and the pH of your mouth close to neutral
- Visit your dentist regularly—a minimum of two to three times a year for cleanings and once a year for a visit with your dentist
- See your dentist soon if your experience any pain in your teeth as cracked teeth are vulnerable teeth
Remember your teeth are the gatekeepers for your body, if they cannot do their job and your body cannot do its best to absorb what you feed it. Take care of your teeth and they will take care of you!
Elizabeth Salada MD, MPH
Internal Medicine and Wellness