We have all known since our very first trip to the dentist that candy and soft drinks and really almost all things sweet are bad for our teeth. Those of us who had cavities learned that lesson the hard way. And the those unfortunate enough to suffer through braces and retainers knew the dangers of crunchy apples, carrots, and the embarrassment that is corn on the cob.
Dental health has not become any less important now that you're an adult. In fact, there are even more foods to be wary of than those that have always been obvious dangers. Here are 10 of the most surprising, based on what your dentists say they won’t put in their mouths.
1. Bottled Water
Avid bottled-water drinkers beware! Whether you find it more convenient than tap water or just prefer it, bottled water may damage your pearly whites. During the purification process bottled water goes through, it can become more acidic than tap water, and acid + teeth = cavities. Plus, the majority of bottled water doesn't have fluoride, which battles cavities by strengthening tooth enamel. In fact, fluoride may even be removed from bottled water during the filtration process. Because many communities in America have added fluoride to their drinking supply over the past 65 years through the Community Water Fluoridation program, the water coming through your spout is likely better for your teeth.
2. Dried Fruit
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While raisins, figs, and dried apricots are rightfully promoted as healthy snacks full of nutrients, they also happen to be loaded to the brim with sugar. On top of that, they are packing non-soluble cellulose fiber, which is great at binding and trapping said crazy amounts of sugar around your teeth. I know it sounds evil to have to give up a healthy snack you actually enjoy, but if you can, try and stick to fresh fruits instead.
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Ah, the sly dental danger that is curry. Most of us know that over time, regularly consuming any food with a heavy pigment will lead to tooth discoloration. So curries, with their light and bright color, don't seem like a threat. Don't be fooled. Although curry powder does not have a particularly dark color, curry's deep pigment will stain your teeth yellow over time. To avoid this problem without giving up some of your favorite foods, make sure you wash down any curry dishes with a big glass of water.
4. Breath Mints
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In a civilized society, people are going to pop breath mints now and then. It's expected and even hoped for. But while that mint is busy freshening your breath, sucking on it coats your teeth in a nice layer of sugar. If you want, or need, a mint, go sugar free. Sugar-free mints are sweetened with xylitol, which has been associated with combating bacteria that leads to cavities. Nice job, xylitol.
5. The Classic PB& J
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There are few foods as comforting as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the likes of which you have been eating since your shoes still fastened with velcro. But this particular sandwich is like kryptonite to your teeth, as all three ingredients have a high sugar content. So at the exact same time that you're enjoying your nostalgic snack, the bacteria that live in your mouth are noshing away at all that sugar that's coating your teeth, as well as the enamel under it. And because peanut butter and jelly are both thick and sticky (as they should be), they make it easier for bacteria to adhere to your teeth. Fantastic.
6. Red Pasta Sauce
As previously stated, tooth enamel is easily stained by dark colored food (and curry...). Red pasta sauce delivers a double-whammy to teeth not just with its dark color but also the acidity of the tomatoes it contains. The acid makes teeth temporarily more porous, and porous enamel more easily absorbs stains. So basically red pasta sauce makes it easier for your teeth to stain and provides the color to stain them. The good news is that you don't have to swear off red sauce completely. Protect your teeth by swishing around some water between your bites of bolognese.
7. White Wine
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For those who choose whites over reds, the truth is a hard pill to swallow. Even though the dark color of a merlot will cause more discoloration than the light tint of your favorite sauvignon blanc, white wine is generally more acidic than red. The acid in the white wine makes your teeth more susceptible to stains, so if you are sipping a white and eating darkly colored food, like, say, the aforementioned bolognese, your teeth are more vulnerable to stains. Solution: Eat mostly light-colored food with your white wine.
8. Black Tea
We're all so aware that coffee stains your teeth that it didn't qualify for this list. But to those tea-drinkers patting yourselves on the back right now for not being coffee fiends, not so fast. Even though black tea is a better option stain-wise, the tannins in that tea can still cause stains, and the darkest teas (Early Gray and English Breakfast) do the most damage. If you’re a tea-drinker, try to switch to green or herbal varieties, as they will naturally do less damage.
Ice has no sugar, no acid, no pigment, and isn't even a food, so no danger, right? None, unless you've picked up the nasty habit of chewing on the remains of your iced tea. Dental experts will be the first to tell you that eating ice is one of the easiest ways to crack your teeth. So break that habit, and fast, before it breaks your teeth.
10. Potato Chips
I have noshed mindlessly on a bag of potato chips too many times to count, not thinking I was doing anymore to my body than filling it with greasy salty goodness that I’d worry about tomorrow. Unfortunately, there's more to the story. The gummy texture potato chips take on once chewed make them likely to linger in your mouth for a while. When they linger, they're more likely to get stuck between your teeth, which feeds acid-producing bacteria and causes them to thrive, which ups your risk of tooth decay. This is especially true when you binge for a prolonged period of time, allowing the bacteria to just keep going and going and going.
Before you make a mental checklist of all the foods above that you currently eat and need to throw out immediately, remember that most of these foods are fine in moderation — just pay attention to how much you're eating and how you're consuming them.
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