At Integrative Nutrition, we believe in a holistic approach to health that includes caring for every part of your mind and body, from your head to your toes. Our teeth deserve the same attention that we put into the health of our other body parts, and a great smile on the outside tells a deeper story about our wellness. In addition to brushing, flossing and visiting the dentist regularly, you can save your smile by limiting foods and drinks that can wear down enamel, get trapped between your teeth or cause breakage.
Here are the main culprits behind a less than sparkling smile (aside from the obvious ones, like candy):
Even though it’s just frozen water, ice increases your chance of tooth damage and can also damage enamel, according to Mouth Healthy from the American Dental Association (ADA). If you’re tempted to chew on ice, avoid putting it in your drink altogether and chill the beverage in the fridge instead.
Citrus fruits contain healthy doses of vitamin C, so you shouldn’t necessarily cut them out of your diet. Just be mindful of how frequently you’re exposing your teeth to their acidity, and be aware that different citrus fruits have varying levels of acid. If you’re eating raw lemons every day or drinking fresh-squeezed juice, for instance, this can wreak havoc on your teeth over time. A 2008 study found that lemon and lime juices have more acid than orange and grapefruit juices. Fresh lemon juice squeezed from the fruit has a mean citric acid level of 48, compared with fresh orange juice at 9.10.
Potato chips contain a lot of starch (not to mention sodium and fat) that can get trapped in your teeth and lead to excess plaque, the ADA says. If you’re eating lots of starchy foods, be sure to give your teeth an extra-good floss at the end of the day.
Anyone who’s ever eaten popcorn has experienced kernels getting stuck in their teeth, which is not only annoying but can also encourage bacterial growth. In addition, eating unpopped kernels can cause tooth breakage, according to dentists. If you’re going to indulge in popcorn on movie night, be sure to floss and rinse your mouth with water afterward to dislodge any kernel flecks.
Recently, there’s been a lot of Internet buzz about the effects of carbonated water on tooth enamel. Some say it damages teeth, while others say it’s perfectly OK. Today.com asked dentists to weigh in and found that while carbonated water is much less acidic than citrus juice, it’s more acidic than plain water. Carbonated water seems to be fine for teeth in moderation, but if you’re a seltzer addict, consider supplementing it with plain water throughout the day. And if you love a squeeze of fresh lemon in your fizzy drink, keep in mind that this will make it even more acidic. Though of course, seltzer is always a healthy alternative to sugar-filled soda.
Do you have sensitive teeth? What do you do to protect them? Let us know in the comments below.