Stop. Before you take that bite, think about it: Have you considered the harm that certain foods can have on your teeth? Unfortunately, it’s some of the best tasting, and even the most nutritious that seem to cause the most damage.
“Enamel is like a sponge and easily stains,” says Beachwood, OH, dentist Dr. Harvey Silverman. “Some of the top staining indulgences include red wine, coffee, tea, soy sauce, berries, dark colas and sauces like tomato sauce and curry.”
San Francisco cosmetic dentist Niloufer Hamsayeh, DDS, adds that, “Lemon juice, vinegar and any sort of food that has citric acid can wear away at your teeth.” Another food that she says can harm teeth are sticky, dried fruits because they’re high in sugar which damages the enamel. “Dried dates, cranberries, raisins-things that are in granolas. If the sticky fruits get stuck on the recessed roots they cause damage to the dentin which is seven to eight times softer than the enamel.”
And even though they’re nutritious, dark leafy greens and richly-pigmented fruits and vegetables can also stain your teeth due to the color they contain. “Remember, anything that stains carpet can stain teeth,” says Dr. Silverman.
But before you decide to kick your good eating habits to the curb, both dentists agree that there are ways to curb the effects of damaging foods. First, Dr. Hamsayeh says to neutralize acidic food by eating it with more basic food like bread and pasta. Even adding dairy can help. “Eating about an ounce of aged chedder, Swiss and Monterey Jack cheese can cause a 125 percent increase of calcium in the saliva,” she says. Your saliva has calcium and phosphate, and the levels increase or decrease depending on the types of foods you eat. If you eat calcium-rich foods, those will help protect and harden your teeth.
The concept also works for tea drinkers. “Just add some milk to your tea and it will neutralize the effects so it won’t stain as much,” she says. And if you tend to use artificial sweeteners, she recommends using Stevia because other brands tend to be harsh on the roots of teeth and cause breakdown.
Also, after you’ve eaten acidic food, make sure to rinse your teeth with cool water to help neutralize them. Just don’t brush immediately as this can actually cause teeth to breakdown more.
If your teeth do start to stain, be sure to see your dentist for a regular cleaning and polish, which can sometimes remove some stains. For deeper stains, ask about whitening treatments. Dr. Hamsayeh says she recommends a 20-minute laser whitening treatment which costs less than $200 at her office and can even be used on those with sensitive teeth.
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