From WebMD we have a neat description of tooth decay:
Bacteria and food can cause tooth decay. A clear, sticky substance called plaque is always forming on your teeth and gums. Plaque contains bacteria that feed on the sugars in the food you eat.
As the bacteria feed, they make acids. The acids attack the teeth for 20 minutes or more after you eat. Over time, these acids destroy tooth enamel, causing tooth decay.
Did you note the word “sugar” is missing in that description? What does that tell you? Sugar is not the main culprit. What is then? What eats our teeth and eventually make them fall out?
Yes, it’s acids. Bacteria create acids and some foods are acidic to boot which exacerbates the problem.
Business Insider spoke to Dr. Mark Burhenne to learn the truth about what causes cavities and which foods and drinks to avoid. As you would have guessed by now, they’re not all candy or even sweet things.
“Sugar isn’t the cause of tooth decay; acid is,” Dr. Burhenne told Business Insider, explaining that when you eat something with sugar, bacteria that naturally reside in your mouth consume this sugar as well.
“Bacteria’s waste product is acid, so after [the bacteria] have a meal, they excrete acid. Acid is what causes problems for teeth. Acid decalcifies or demineralizes tooth enamel by taking away its structure, creating decay.”
So which food should you avoid? Here is a list.
“Saltine crackers are worse than candy for your teeth because they’re a fermentable and highly processed starch,” Dr. Burhenne said. “Many people don’t realize that most crackers are highly processed and contain genetically engineered ingredients, essentially increasing the glycemic index and making the food more cariogenic (cavity-causing).”
Saltines and other similar crackers are terrible for our teeth. They break in little bits that don’t all disappear when you swallow, leaving lovely sticky goo for the bacteria to feast on long after you have stopped eating.
For that matter, ordinary sweet cookies are just as bad for our teeth.
2. Dried fruit
Dr. Burhenne pointed out that dried fruit has lost all of its water so the naturally present sugars become extremely concentrated. They then act like a sticky caramel or toffee in your mouth, which get trapped between teeth where the bacteria can do their cavity-causing best.
3. Cough drops
You never saw this one coming, I bet. Cough drops are a problem, not only because they are sweet, but because of the purpose for which you take them, they stay in your mouth longer than ordinary candy would.
“When it comes to cavity formation, the best sweets are the ones you eat all at once,” Dr. Burhenne said. “Sucking on a hard candy — or a cough drop — means the teeth are exposed to sugar and acids for a lot longer than if you just had a slice of cake that went down the hatch quickly.”
(Read: as far teeth health is concerned, you can indulge in chocolate – they dissolve ever so deliciously, not being trapped between teeth).
And neither could you have guised that grapefruit, a good source of vitamin C and a healthy breakfast favorite is one of the foods to avoid for healthy teeth.
As one of the most acidic fruits, grapefruit can damage tooth enamel because it literally dissolves it, said Dr. Burhenne, adding that when you pour acid on something, it leeches out the calcium.
Now this I and many thousands of coffee enthusiasts just don’t want to hear. “Tannic acids naturally found in coffee can do more damage to teeth than just unsightly stains. The acids swirling around in your mouth from your morning cup of coffee can break down your tooth enamel, causing decay.
For us coffee lovers there is I, think, a solution. You could consider having a class of water with or after a cup of coffeer.
For that matter, a dentist once told me that the best way to protect your teeth is to rinse your mouth every time you’ve eaten or drunk something.
6. Diet soda
According to Dr. Burhenne, diet soda is actually way worse for our dental health than regular soda because it’s more acidic than regular soda. “When they take out the sugar, there’s some tartness that is lost, so they add phosphoric acid.”
Phosophoric acid can also dissolve the calcium in the enamel of your teeth.
7. Bottled lemon iced teas
Particularly Nestea is very bad for teeth as it has a pH of 2.97, which is about the same as drinking a spoonful of vinegar.
According to Dr. Burhenne, to protect our teeth, we must consume foods and drinks that are as close to neutral (a HP of 7.00) as possible.
Check out this chart by Shelton Dentistry in Longhorn, Texas to find out which drinks are safe for your teeth – looks like a boring future though consisting of mainly milk, water, unsweetened/ decaffeinated tea, and coffee with creamer.