8 Surprising Foods That Are Bad for Your Teeth

You might rethink some of your regular snacks.

You know candy leads to cavities, and wine can stain your pearly whites. But it turns out there are many other (seemingly harmless) foods that can wreak havoc on your oral hygiene if you have them regularly. 

Here's what you need to know about the surprising teeth-harming culprits that dentists recommend you avoid.

Sunflower Seeds

The seed itself is not bad for your teeth—the hull is the problem, said Tyrone Rodriguez, DDS, pediatric dentist at Selah's Smiles Dental in Selah, Wash. 

"The fact that it has a hard outer shell, and you're trying to bite through that shell. That can cause damage," explained Dr. Rodriguez. 

Dr. Rodriguez mentioned that patients come in with cracked teeth from chewing on sunflower seeds. If you're a fan of the protein-packed snack, opt for hulled seeds instead of sunflower seeds.

Ice Cubes

Keep the cold, hard stuff in your glass, dentists warned. Chewing on ice is terrible because tooth enamel and ice are made of crystals, said Matthew Messina, DDS, clinic director of the Ohio State Upper Arlington Dentistry.

"When you push two crystals against each other with enough force, one is going to break," noted Dr. Messina. 

Dr. Rodriguez put it another way: "If ice can damage highways, imagine what it can do to your teeth."

Flavored Waters and Seltzer

Rodriguez said that even if the flavoring is sugar-free, that doesn't mean it's acid-free. Some flavored waters and seltzers contain citric acid, a common culprit of enamel erosion. 

"Once your enamel gets worn away, it will never come back," added Genaro Romo, DDS, a dentist based in Chicago. 

As the protective layer erodes, it leaves your teeth vulnerable to cavities, decay, chips, and sensitivity.

Research has shown that higher carbonation leads to more enamel erosion. But adding calcium to the water reduces, though it does not entirely eliminate, that effect. Calcium is a mineral salt found in some sparkling water brands.

Dried Fruit

Dried fruit is full of fiber and vitamins. But there are possible cons to dehydrating sweet produce. 

"When you pull the water out, what's left behind is concentrated sugar and acid, and the fruit itself becomes a lot stickier," explained Dr. Rodriguez. 

The theory is that raisins and dried cherries may stick in the grooves and crevices in your teeth. Bacteria in your mouth could feast on that deposited sugar. Those bacteria produce acid, which then dissolves your enamel and causes cavities. 

Studies have shown that dried fruit has nutritional benefits, contains anti-microbial substances, and provides a possible dental use of more chewing. Though, more research is needed to support this claim.

Gummy Vitamins

"Everyone thinks gummies are okay," said Dr. Rodriguez. But the sweet and sticky vitamins aren't much better for your teeth than candy. 

Instead, Dr. Rodriguez recommended chewable vitamins or even liquid versions. 

"You can take a few drops and add it to beverages or food," noted Dr. Rodriguez.

Potato Chips

Chips are sneaky, said Alice Boghosian, DDS, a consumer advisor for the American Dental Association. Like dried fruit and gummies, they adhere to your teeth. 

"It's something you don't think about," said Dr. Boghosian.

The starch in the potatoes turns to sugar, and the sugar gets metabolized into acid. Dr. Romo added that if you enjoy a bag of chips now and again, wash them down with lots of water, and consider flossing afterward. 

"My suggestion, as a dentist, is always to make sure that when you're done eating, you're actually done. You're not leaving anything behind," explained Dr. Romo. 

Cleaning your teeth right after a sticky snack is the way to avoid decay.

Sports Drinks

Sure, they replenish electrolytes after a long workout but don't forget they're loaded with sugar. 

"It's one thing to have a sports drink every once in a while," Dr. Romo said. "But if [it's part of your] daily workout routine, read the ingredients—you'd be surprised at some of these drinks, how much sugar they have."

So, the next time you grab that sugary sports drink after a vigorous workout, opt for water instead. 

Alcohol

Aside from the staining and the sugar, alcohol dries out your mouth, making you more prone to cavities. Studies have demonstrated that people with alcohol dependence may also be at a higher risk of gum disease.

"There's a reason why your mouth salivates," explained Dr. Romo. "[Saliva] washes your mouth, it keeps everything clean, and it neutralizes the mouth so it's not acidic." 

But that doesn't mean you need to swear off alcohol altogether.

"With alcohol, moderation is the key," added Dr. Romo. 

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Sources
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  2. Sadler MJ. Dried fruit and dental healthInt J Food Sci Nutr. 2016;67(8):944-959. doi:10.1080/09637486.2016.1207061

  3. Priyanka K, Sudhir KM, Reddy VCS, Kumar RK, Srinivasulu G. Impact of Alcohol Dependency on Oral Health - A Cross-sectional Comparative StudyJ Clin Diagn Res. 2017;11(6):ZC43-ZC46. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2017/26380.10058

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