With a health food industry that has ballooned to 28.4 billion dollars, it’s no wonder fad diets have become so prominent in the United States. From mushroom tea said to promote focus, to fermented milk that’s supposedly good for your gut, wacky food claims are all around us and it’s becoming more difficult to sort fact from fiction.
Worse, some of these foods may be more damaging than helpful, especially for our mouths. Here are four “healthy” foods that are actually hurting your teeth.
Not only is coffee full of antioxidants, but studies have shown that those who drink coffee regularly can live longer. Just like red wine, however, coffee can increase the risk of tooth damage by drying out your mouth. It also contains an ingredient called tannins, which is a type of polyphenol that breaks down in water, and can cause color compounds to more readily stick to our teeth. And if you consume coffee drinks from popular chains, they may have more than 20 teaspoons of sugar in each cup!
Dried fruit might seem like a great alternative to sweet treats like candy, but they’re not. While fruit might have more nutrients than candy, from other standpoints, they’re as bad as, or worse than, many types of candy. Dried fruit is very high in sugar, and it’s sticky, like a caramel. When sugary foods stick to your teeth, it provides oral bacteria with a steady supply of food in one place. This lets oral bacteria thrive in the area, and they produce acid that attacks your teeth.
Part of the “Master Cleanse” diet, lemon water with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper is said to detoxify your liver and spark the metabolism. Although this may be a popular trend, it is undoubtedly bad for your teeth. Acidic fruit such as lemons, limes, or grapefruits can weaken enamel increasing your chances of cavities, tooth sensitivity, and gum disease.
Popcorn is often touted as a healthy snack. A whole grain, it’s initially free of oil and salt. Depending on how you pop it, you can have it with with little or no fat or salt, which means you can enjoy it almost guilt free. But popcorn isn’t always good for your teeth. If you bite down on an unpopped kernel, you can chip or crack a tooth. More insidious is the husk of the kernels. These kernels can slide between the teeth and gums and get lodged there. This isn’t just initially painful, it can be a source of discomfort–and an encouragement to infection. The increased space invites bacteria in, which can lead to tooth loss, and even more serious risks. Recently a firefighter experienced a near-fatal heart infection that he blamed on a popcorn husk.
It’s true that many studies have concluded that nutrients like resveratrol, found in red wine, are good for your heart, but maybe not for your teeth. Being an alcohol, red wine dries your mouth, allowing oral bacteria to flourish. Much like lemon water, red wine’s acidity can soften enamel, leach calcium from our teeth, and weaken their structure. Plus, the dark color of red wine can lead to staining.
From “cleanse” diets to meal replacements, fruit and vegetable juices have been flooding the market. Combined with mounting evidence that diets like this are more harmful than helpful, most fruit and vegetable juices are not good for your teeth. Many products, though claiming to a “healthy” meal replacement, can have up to 36g of sugar in as little as 8 oz of liquid. One of the worst substances for your teeth, sugar feeds bacteria in the mouth that leads to cavities and gum disease. Fruit juice is also highly acidic, and without chewing action to stimulate saliva production, the acid is free to attack your teeth.
Tree nuts are a good snack. They are high in protein, have good fats, and lots of fiber. But they can be bad for your teeth. Nuts are hard, which means there’s a chance they can crack your teeth (though a tooth that cracks on a nut is probably already damaged from other things). Fragments of nuts can get caught between teeth and irritate your teeth and gums. Worse, nuts can often have bits of shells in them, and these can easily crack your teeth. Not to mention the parts of husk and hull that can wedge between your teeth and gums.
You might think that because a soda is sugar-free it’s good for your waistline and your teeth. The truth is that sugar-free sodas usually aren’t good for either. People often see the sugar-free label as a license to drink as much as they want. However, sugar free sodas are just as acidic as regular sodas, if not more so, and they can badly erode your teeth. In fact, the damage from diet sodas has sometimes been compared to “meth mouth.”
Herbal teas are a common choice for people looking to stay hydrated with a flavorful, caffeine-free beverage. And you might think that the high antioxidants in these teas makes them a good choice. And some are. However, some herbal teas are highly acidic and can badly damage your teeth. Some are even worse than orange juice. Good herbal teas to drink are most mint teas, chamomile, and fennel. Avoid fruit teas, rose hips, and hibiscus.
Keep Your Teeth Healthy
Even if something is healthy for our body, it isn’t necessarily healthy for our mouths. The best way to maintain good oral health is to brush and floss regularly, and to visit a dentist at least every six months.