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10 Foods and Habits You Should Avoid to Protect Your Dental Health

We all know that candy and sugary foods aren’t the best choices for staying healthy, and they aren’t very good for our teeth either. But aside from these obvious culprits, there are some edibles you might be surprised to learn contribute to cavities, chipped teeth, and other oral health issues. 

Dr. Hannah Baek and our team at Healthy Smile Dental want our patients of all ages to have healthy teeth and gums for a lifetime. We’ve compiled a list of 10 foods and habits you should avoid to protect your dental health. 

1. Acidic foods

Eating fruit is good for your body, but harsh on tooth enamel. Acids from citrus fruits like oranges, limes, and lemons can cause irreversible damage to the surface of your teeth. Use a straw if you frequently drink orange juice or lemonade and rinse your mouth with water immediately afterward. 

Avoid brushing your teeth for at least 30 minutes before and after consuming citrus fruits and beverages. 

2. Hard candy

Hard candy is bad for your teeth on a couple of levels. First, it’s full of sugar and is usually in your mouth for a long time. This means the sugar hangs around in all those hard-to-reach places between your teeth and along your gum line, which can lead to cavities and even gingivitis – the earliest stage of periodontal disease. 

Second, eating hard candy means you’re at risk of chipping a tooth or damaging existing dental work, like fillings or bridges and crowns. The fact that hard candy soaks your teeth in sugar (and has no nutritional benefit) makes it one of the worst things you can do for your oral health.

3. Starchy foods

Bread, potato chips, and other starchy snacks turn into sugar when you chew. Your saliva breaks down starch from bread and chips to a pasty consistency that easily sticks in the crevices of your teeth. If you don’t brush and floss right away, this sugary substance can lead to tooth decay and cavities. 

4. Carbonated beverages

Like hard candy, carbonated sodas have no nutritional value, and even if they don’t contain sugar, they can still damage your teeth. If you drink a lot of carbonated beverages, you’re helping plaque produce more acid and have an easier time attacking tooth enamel. Beyond the damage from acid, dark sodas can stain your teeth, too. 

5. Dried fruit

Apricots, figs, prunes, raisins, and other dried fruits are often touted as “healthy snacks,” and while there’s some validity to that, these fruits are also sticky and sugary. When it comes to keeping your teeth healthy, sticky foods are culprits of decay and cavities — especially when you’re not able to brush your teeth right after eating them. 

6. Drinking alcohol

While there is some evidence that consuming a glass of wine has health benefits, improving oral health isn’t one of them. Alcoholic beverages dry out your mouth, which means you have less saliva to help wash away food particles and prevent them from sticking to your teeth. And, if you’re mixing your favorite spirit into soda, you’re potentially causing double the damage to your whole mouth. 

7. Chewing ice

Chewing ice, pen caps, or any other hard object puts you at risk of chipping or cracking a tooth. You can also damage existing dental work, just like you can with hard candy. Your teeth are strong when it comes to food, but they’re not meant for chewing on ice or other hard items. 

8. Nail biting

Nail biting is often a reaction to stress, and it typically begins in childhood. In addition to exposing you to germs, nail biting can cause major damage to your teeth over time. As with hard candy and ice, biting your nails can lead to tooth fractures and damage to dental work. In extreme cases, you can even end up with symptoms of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder

9. Teeth grinding (bruxism)

If you grind or clench your teeth because of stress, you may be unknowingly damaging your teeth. Many people grind their teeth while they sleep, which can lead to headaches, TMJ pain, and worn-down chewing surfaces. Bruxism can even wear away tooth enamel and make your teeth more sensitive to hot and cold foods and beverages. If you grind your teeth at night, relaxation techniques or a custom-made dental mouthguard may help. 

10. Opening packages

Finally, don’t use your teeth to open packages! You’ll be ingesting extra germs — especially if you just brought that package home from the grocery store or received it in the mail — not to mention the potential damage ripping open a package can do to your teeth and jaw. Protecting your oral health is worth the extra effort it takes to grab a pair of scissors. 

You can always take action to improve your oral health, one step at a time. Give our office in Woodridge, Illinois, a call at 630-296-5396 to schedule a dental exam, or book an appointment online today.

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