3 of the worst foods for your teeth and how to prevent damage, according to dental experts

Dental experts share 3 of the worst foods for your teeth

Candy is not great for your teeth, but it's not the only thing to be mindful of for better oral health.

"It's not just obvious sugary treats that pose a risk to teeth," registered dental hygienist Whitney DiFoggio told CBS News. "Some less suspecting culprits can be just as harmful."

The worst offenders you might not realize?

Sugary or acidic drinks: That incudes your favorite sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks and even fruit juices. Cosmetic dentist Dr. Lana Rozenberg called these the "the biggest culprits."

Any drink containing a high amount of sugar "sits in between the teeth and it's very bad for your teeth, because then it can lead to decay," she said. 

Acidic foods and drinks can be harmful too, including coffee, wine and, once again, fruit juices.

The acidity can "erode tooth enamel which can lead to cavities, decay, sensitivity and so forth," said Rozenberg. "Especially if you do high amounts of it."

Sticky foods: While this includes candies like gummies, it also applies to "healthy foods" like dried fruit that you may not realize are sticking to your teeth just the same. 

"These are notorious for adhering to teeth and getting caught in crevices, making them difficult to clean and thus posing a greater risk for decay," DiFoggio said.

Fermentable carbohydrates: This includes items like bread, pasta, chips and saltine crackers. The issue is that they "break down into sugars right in the mouth, sticking to teeth and increasing the chance of tooth decay," said DiFoggio. "These foods easily stick to and between teeth, trapping sugars that bacteria feed on, producing harmful acids."

How to prevent tooth damage from foods, drinks

Don't worry, you don't have to give up these foods for healthy teeth. There are ways to reduce their harmful effects, experts say, beyond maintaining good oral hygiene like brushing and flossing daily. Here's how:

Order up: "The order in which you eat foods can impact your dental health," said DiFoggio. "Eating healthier, fibrous foods like apples or carrots after consuming sugary or sticky foods can help clean your teeth naturally by dislodging food particles and sugars, effectively reducing the risk of plaque buildup and tooth decay."

Water wins: Drinking water when you eat and swishing with it after can help clear food particles and sugars from the mouth, experts say. "We want to definitely wash it down with water and brush about an hour later, not right away, but an hour later," Rozenberg said.

Gum time: While sticky, chewing gum that contains xylitol — a sweetener used in many sugar-free gums — can "help increase saliva flow to wash away food debris and neutralize acid more effectively," DiFoggio says

Your saliva is also a natural cleanser, Rozenberg said, so "the more you chew, the more saliva you make, the more cleansed" your teeth will be.


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