The Danger Zone: What Foods Put Your Family’s Teeth at Risk?

We spend so much time trying to minimize the dangers in our lives. We wear seat belts in the car to be safe in case of an accident. We wear helmets when we play football and baseball to stay safe from injury. We put sunscreen on ourselves and our children to keep us from getting sunburned. We do all these things in the name of safety, and then go out to eat only to put our teeth through a gauntlet of food that wants to break them down and hurt them. Knowing what foods want to do your teeth harm and what foods are trying to help is a big part of maintaining a healthy mouth.

For more than 25 years, Dr. Betts of Decatur, AL has been counseling his patients on what food hurts and helps our teeth. Some of the foods that hurt your teeth may surprise you. Learning what foods to enjoy and what foods to avoid will go a long way toward you and your family enjoying a lifetime of good dental health.


Foods in the Danger Zone

  • Citrus fruit Citric acid is present in every kind of citrus fruit. That is the part that is damaging to your teeth. The citric acid actually attacks and breaks down your tooth enamel. This is important because your enamel is the layer between the inside part of your tooth (dentin) and the rest of the world. It is also important to note that although you can strengthen your tooth enamel, you are not able to regrow your tooth enamel. Once it is gone, it is gone forever. Grapefruit and lemons are the most harmful to your enamel due to the high concentration of citric acid. Orange juice is the least harmful. It’s recommended that to limit the amount of damage that orange juice can do to your teeth, you should drink fortified orange juice. You know, the kind with calcium and vitamin D added. This helps your teeth in their battle against citric acid. Please note, we are not saying that you can never again eat anything citrus. That would ignore all the nutritional benefits citrus can provide. What we are saying is that you need to be mindful of the effects that the citric acid has on your teeth. Brushing and flossing after you eat a food that is high is citric acid content is recommended.
  • Chewy candy and hard candyThis is probably not a shock. Candy has a high sugar content. Plus, some of these candies are flavored with citric acid to help the taste (sour candies, fruit-flavored hard candies). Candy attacks your teeth in two ways. The sugar in the candy is of such a high concentration that your saliva will not wash it away as quickly as it needs to. As that sugar hangs around, it is feeding the bacteria that is always present in your mouth. The bacteria consume the sugar, produce acids as a byproduct, and the acids attack your enamel. Chewy candies have a habit of getting stuck in the crevices of your mouth and helping the bacteria hurt your teeth the whole time they’re there. You also have the citric acid that is added for flavor. We already know that citric acid attacks your enamel. This is just one more way it finds its way to your teeth.
  • PicklesThis is one you need to watch out for if you or your kids like to munch on pickles daily. The acid content in this food from the vinegar causes a great deal of wear to your enamel. The acid in the vinegar acts just like the citric acid does. Now, in moderation, this is a fine food to eat. The increased risk of enamel damage is based on a diet where a person eats at least one whole pickle on a daily basis.
  • Soda and sports drinks – Bad news for the soda pop lovers and the energy or sports drink fans. Both of these types of beverages have a large amount of acidic content in them. Acid attacks your enamel and leaves your teeth defenseless. Now, unlike food that can get stuck in your teeth, the exposure time of this acid is less than with a hard food. Still, you should enjoy these types of beverages only in moderation. One more thing: Drinking regular soda or diet soda makes no difference. The acid content in each is comparable.
  • Wine, coffee, and tea The major damage from these comes from weakening your tooth enamel and staining your teeth. Red wine is notorious for staining your teeth. Coffee will also deeply stain your teeth. The stains from coffee are sometimes more persistent than even tobacco stains. Black tea is likely to stain your teeth, but some herbal tea is more likely to damage your enamel. No matter which of these wonderful beverages you tend to enjoy (our office would not function without coffee), just remember moderation, and good dental hygiene will help to mitigate these dangers.


Bonus: 3 Foods That Are Good for Your Teeth

Leafy greens – These are almost like a car wash for your teeth. The amount of chewing that is required really helps to circulate the saliva.

Dairy products – Anything that is pumping calcium into your enamel and restoring its minerals is going to benefit your teeth greatly.

Strawberries – Nature’s tooth whitener. If you crush some strawberries, mix them with baking soda, and spread them on your teeth, you will have an all-natural whitening solution.

Dr. Betts knows that good food is hard to pass up. Let him help you figure out if your diet is doing your teeth more harm than good. Call our office today at 256-274-8680 for an appointment.