A lot of perfectly reasonable adults seem to think that as long as they brush and floss their teeth really good at night, the food they eat won’t affect their oral health. The truth is far different! Everything you eat plays a role in your oral health and affects the chemistry in your mouth. If your diet is high in sugary, acidic, and starchy foods, you may be making yourself more vulnerable to tooth decay. Do you want to learn more about your family’s oral health? Knoxville family dentist Dr. Jack Haney provides high quality oral health care for every member of the family. Call our dental office at 865-693-6886 to make an appointment.
How Food Choices Affect Your Oral Health
We all know that candy and sodas are bad for your teeth, but do you know why? Foods that are high in sugars and starches leave residues on your teeth that feed mouth bacteria. When you consume sugary/starchy foods, bacteria feast and create acidic excretions (yes, poop!) that can demineralize your tooth enamel. Eventually they leach enough minerals from your teeth that a hole forms in the enamel: a cavity.
The more candy and potato chips you eat, the more your mouth bacteria eat and create the excretions that damage your teeth. The acidity that damages tooth enamel and causes cavities can also be caused by highly acidic foods and beverages, such as sodas, coffee, citrus, and lemonade. Even patients who consume only minimal sugars and starches can suffer from enamel erosion if there is too much acidity in their diet.
What You Can Do
If sugary, starchy, and acidic foods play a significant role in your family’s diet, you can take steps to make sure they aren’t contributing to tooth decay.
- Avoid foods that contribute to an acidic environment.
- Know which foods should not be allowed to sit on the teeth for extended periods of time.
- Know which foods can clean the teeth and should therefore be eaten after the bad ones.
The Worst Foods for Your Teeth
When you eat these foods (or allow your children to consume them), you should take steps to make sure they aren’t allowed to harm tooth enamel. This may mean brushing the teeth after they are eaten, or it may mean following the bad foods with teeth-cleaning or neutralizing foods.
The following foods contribute to an acidic environment in the mouth:
- Dried fruit
- Chewy fruit snacks
- Wine and beer
- Refined white flours: pasta, white bread, crackers
- Potato chips and veggie chips
- Crunchy snacks: cheesy puffs, corn chips, etc.
- Ice cream and popsicles
Foods That Are Good for the Teeth
Oddly enough, there is a good argument to be made for children eating their vegetables last. Consuming crunchy and fibrous vegetables after starchy or sugary foods can help prevent the potential damage caused by mouth bacteria. Foods like raw broccoli and cauliflower are wonderful for your teeth because their nubby texture actually scrubs the teeth clean when you chew them.
- Crunchy raw veggies: celery, carrots, turnips, cucumber
- Crunchy fruits: apples, pears
- Leafy greens: spinach, kale, collard greens
- Broccoli, cauliflower, crunchy salads
- Plain water, consumed after “bad” foods to rinse the mouth
- Sugarless gum
Other Helpful Tips from Your Knoxville Family Dentist
Here’s a collection of miscellaneous tips that can help you be more mindful of what happens in your mouth between brushings:
- Drink sodas and lemonade through a straw to minimize contact with the teeth.
- Eat cheese before you drink wine; the waxy texture of cheese forms a protective film that can prevent acid exposure.
- If you can’t brush your teeth, chew sugarless gum to promote the production of saliva, which neutralizes acids in the mouth.
- Adding milk to your coffee can reduce acidity levels and prevent acid erosion.
- Don’t let candy or simple carbohydrates be the last thing you eat. Chew gum, rinse with water, or eat mouth-healthy foods afterward. This minimizes food residue left sitting on the teeth and feeding bacteria.
Do you want to learn more tips for preventing tooth decay with your diet and eating habits? Contact Knoxville family dentist Dr. Jack Haney for a dental appointment. We love to help our patients learn more about their oral health and prevent damage to their teeth and gums. Call us at 865-693-6886 to make an appointment!