The outer protective layer of our teeth, called enamel, is extremely hard and resistant to breakdown. However, there are some foods that are known to be particularly damaging. While this is not an exhaustive list, here are 3 that will negatively affect your dental health
Sugar is by far the biggest offender. Why? Simply put, sugar feeds the bacteria in our mouth and the by-product of this bacterial activity is lactic acid.
Yes, our mouths are literally infested with billions of bacteria that are just waiting to feed on some sugar so they can grow and multiply and do all their dirty deeds. All bacteria in our mouth benefit from sugar, but there is one type that is especially noteworthy when it comes to cavities: anaerobic bacteria. This class of bacteria thrives in non-oxygen environments, which is exactly why they love to hide out in the tiny, microscopic spaces between teeth and below gums where there is little to no environmental oxygen.
When anaerobic bacteria feed on sugar they produce a by-product that can cause cavities; it’s called lactic acid. Every time we consume a sugary food or drink these bacteria go into a ‘feeding frenzy’ for about 20 minutes, during which they do nothing but dump huge quantities of lactic acid right onto our teeth. It stands to reason then that the more you consume sugary foods the more your teeth will be exposed to this acid attack. The result over time is simply this:
Sugar = acids = cavities
Reduce your sugar intake and you will reduce your risk of cavities.
Simple carbohydrates quickly convert to sugar in the mouth. Now that you know the havoc that sugar wreaks on your teeth, you can understand the need to limit the intake of simple carbohydrates such as pastries, crackers and white bread. It is much better to replace these items with complex carbohydrates such as whole grain breads, beans and rice. These items typically don’t convert to sugar until later on in the digestive process thus sparing your teeth unnecessary damage.
Your enamel is composed of calcium phosphate, which dissolves in acid. So, any acidic food has the potential to cause cavities. Even foods that are otherwise healthy for you like citrus fruits – oranges, lemons, limes and the like – can become harmful if consumed in excess or improperly (i.e. sucking on lemons, not a good idea).
Regardless of the culprit – sugar, carbohydrates or acid – brushing your teeth after every meal or snack is highly recommended. If, for whatever reason, that is not possible then at least a nice thorough rinse with water can help wash off cavity causing debris and neutralize the acid attack thus reducing your risk of cavities.