Sugar and sweets are a no-no for your waistline, but could they be wasting away your smile, too? Absolutely. In fact, your food choices affect your dental health just as significantly as they do your overall health. While similar rules apply to eating for oral health and for total wellness,indulging once in a while is OK. Just beware of these five cavity culprits and limit your intake, or you might be making friends with your dentist!
Juice isn’t the foolproof soda alternative
Sports drinks, energy drinks and juices seem to provide at least some nutritional benefits and are often the alternative to sugary sodas; however, according to Jennifer Bowen, a dental assistant in Carmel, Indiana, “These drinks are loaded with sugar, too, which eventually causes tooth decay.”
Children are especially susceptible to tooth decay caused by sugary drinks, depending on their sippy cup usage. (The spout of the cup places drinks in close contact with tooth enamel, and children often “nurse” a cup in such a way that their teeth are constantly bathed with the sugary drink.) Even 100 percent pure juice is advisable only in limited quantities because of its naturally high sugar content.
Bowen says that moms often give their children fruit juice, milk or fruit snacks before bed. The sugars coat the teeth overnight and can cause a condition called baby bottle tooth decay, which is early childhood tooth rot. Prevent this overnight decay by always brushing your teeth and your kids’ teeth before bed.
You’re not the only one eating that Candy
The bacteria in your mouth are loving your sweet tooth, too! These bacteria feed on the sugar in candy and produce acids that attack your enamel for up to 20 minutes after each bite. So if you’re snacking on candy throughout the day (and not brushing your teeth constantly at the same time!), your teeth are constantly bombarded with the acids those bacteria create. Choose snacks such as cheese, yogurt and raw vegetables, or try one of these sweets that are actually good for your teeth.
Cut the carbs
Your tush and your teeth will thank you if you just step away from the carbs. Foods that contain sugars and starches — aka carbohydrates — fuel the bacteria that live inside your mouth. Like we said before, these bacteria produce acids that destroy tooth enamel, which ultimately results in tooth decay and cavities. You don’t have to quit the carbs altogether, though: Just brush after you eat sugary and starchy foods, and limit snacking between meals.
Pucker up your pout
A surprising number of people eat lemons, according to Dr. Somers, without realizing that lemons’ acidity causes teeth to erode. Get your lemon fix by drinking lemonade instead, but beware of both store-bought and homemade mixes with tons of sugar. If it feels like you just can’t win, slice a lemon and toss it in a pitcher of water overnight. The lemon juice will infuse the water, giving you that lemon tang you desire without the dangers of straight lemon juice on your pearly whites. Sipping through a straw also helps the liquid bypass your teeth and prevent additional damage.
More harm than help
Cough suppressants such as lozenges, cough drops and cough syrup often contain large quantities of sugar. According to Somers, sucking on a lozenge or cough drop can be just as damaging to your teeth as sucking on hard candy. Plus, she said, most people don’t realize just how much sugar is in these medications, so they don’t brush after consuming them — which, of course, can cause tooth decay and cavities. Look for sugar-free versions of cough medicine, sip more water and brush regularly when taking any medication.