We all know that candy is bad for your teeth. Did you know that some healthy foods can be
just as detrimental to your teeth as chewy candies, cakes and cookies? Now that children are returning to school, parents may want to consider limiting the consumption of some of the commonly offered foods and beverages listed below. Candy bars are not the only foods to avoid.

1. Potato chips, white bread and white rice. These foods turn into a sticky paste that clings to your teeth. Bacteria favor these kinds of starches. Bacteria in the mouth convert sugars from the foods you eat to acids which begin to attack the enamel on teeth, starting the decay process. The more often you eat and snack, the more frequently you are exposing your teeth to this cycle of decay.

2. Carbonated soft drinks. These drinks are the leading source of added sugar among kids and teens. Besides being loaded with sugar, most soft drinks contain phosphoric and citric acids that erode tooth enamel.

3. Dried fruit. Once these fruits have been dehydrated and dried, the sugar ratio is dramatically altered and the bacteria in your mouth can thrive. Dried fruit is also sticky and often gets caught between your teeth where it can linger for hours. Raisins, prunes and dried apricots fit into this category. In addition to dried fruits, citrus fruits such as grapefruit and lemons are extremely acidic. Acidic foods, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, and lemons, should be eaten as part of a larger meal to minimize the
acid from them.

  1. Fruit juice. OJ, grapefruit, pineapple and other
    fruit juices can be packed with sugar. Even though it’s the natural kind that’s supposedly better
    for you, the decay-causing bacteria in your mouth do not differentiate
    natural sugar from refined sugar. Plus, fruit juices also contain a lot of
    acid, and acid from any kind of food or drink — even nutritious ones —
    erodes tooth enamel.
  2. Sports drinks. Studies have found that
    sports beverages can damage tooth enamel – even more so than soda – due to a
    combination of acidic components, sugars, and additives. Even though sports drinks can help
    rehydrate you after an intense workout, prolonged consumption of these
    types of beverages can weaken the enamel, making teeth more susceptible to
    bacteria that can invade the cracks and crevices of the teeth.

Yogurt is another healthy choice option that may be offered at some school cafeterias. While yogurt is an excellent source of calcium and other important nutrients, it often contains added sugar and is quite
acidic so it too feeds bacteria and erodes tooth enamel. When possible choose sugar-free plain yogurt
as an alternative.

Fast food restaurants can also be misleading when offering healthy choice alternatives. A “healthy” bowl of oatmeal can contain brown sugar, dried cranberries and raisins that may contain more sugar than a candy bar.

What can I do to protect my teeth?

The ADA offers these tips to help reduce
tooth-decay risk from the foods you eat:

» Consume sugary foods with other meals. Your mouth produces more saliva during meals, and this helps neutralize acid production and rinse food particles from the mouth.

» Limit between-meal snacks. If you crave a snack, choose something nutritious. Consider chewing sugarless gum afterward to increase saliva flow and wash out food and acid. Gums that contain the sugar substitute xylitol may even help to prevent cavities. Consider your dental history before you begin this practice as chewing gum may interfere with other dental work or may exacerbate existing jaw problems.

Other helpful hints:

Cut down on the consumption of sports beverages or dilute them with water. Avoid carrying the drinks around with you and sipping them all day which supplies a steady stream of acid and sugar to the teeth consistently throughout the day. Gatorade “G-Series” offers a reduced-calorie option as a possible
alternative to consider.

Green and black teas contain polyphenols that interact with plaque bacteria. These substances either kill or suppress bacteria, preventing them from growing or producing tooth-attacking acid. Please note that heavy tea consumption can lead to tooth staining so moderation may be advisable.

What foods are actually good for my teeth?

According to www.webmd.com the best food choices for the health of your mouth include cheeses, chicken or other meats, nuts, and milk. These foods are thought to protect tooth enamel by providing the calcium and phosphorus needed to remineralize teeth (a natural process by which minerals are redeposited in tooth enamel after being removed by acids).

Other food choices include firm/crunchy fruits (for example, apples and pears) and vegetables. These foods have a high water content, which dilutes the effects of the sugars they contain, and stimulate the flow of saliva (which helps protect against decay by washing away food particles and buffering acid).

Remember that sugarless or sugar-free food sometimes simply means that no sugar was added to the foods
during processing. However, this does not mean that the foods do not contain other natural sweeteners, such as honey, molasses, evaporated cane sugar, fructose, barley malt, or rice syrup. These natural sweeteners contain the same number of calories as sugar and can be just as harmful to teeth.

To determine if the sugarless or sugar-free foods you buy contain natural sweeteners, examine the ingredients label. Words that end in ‘-ose’ (like sucrose and fructose) usually indicate the presence of a natural sweetener. On the label, look under sugars or carbohydrates.

Proper oral hygiene can help

1. Brush your teeth regularly. Brush preferably after every snack and meal.

2. Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride.

3. Floss at least once a day.

4. Consider using a mouthwash with fluoride after brushing.

5. Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings – preferably twice a year.

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