Here’s an unwelcome surprise: Studies show that certain foods can actually do more damage to your teeth than tobacco—and we’re not talking about the obvious sugary candy here. You’d be surprised by the generally otherwise healthy foods you may be consuming that might be damaging your smile.
See the foods that might be sabotaging your teeth, and take caution when sipping or eating these foods. We’re not saying you should give up these foods, but you might want to consult your dentist if you consume them frequently and are worried about discoloration or enamel erosion.
The Britons’ (perhaps unfair) bad reputation when it comes to teeth might have something to do with the popularity of tea in the British diet. A study in The European Journal of Dentistry looked for the differences in staining between red wine, cola, tea, and coffee. Surprisingly, the study found no significant difference in teeth exposed to coffee (Starbucks lovers, you can exhale now) but found tea to be a main offender when it comes to discoloration.
There’s no denying that tea has amazing health benefits: Fat-burning properties, antioxidant protection against DNA damage, and the reduced risk of several diseases. But it can take a toll on your teeth. A study published in The Journal of Dentistry compared groups of teeth exposed to either conventional black tea, herbal tea or water. Those exposed to the teas suffered a loss of tooth enamel. Both black and herbal varieties caused erosion, but surface loss was much greater on teeth exposed to herbal tea.
Again, there’s no need to give up tea and its health-boosting qualities; just talk to your dentist if you have a concern.
RELATED: Learn how to harness the power of tea to lose weight.
The most commonly cited cause of tooth erosion is dietary acid, and citrus fruits are the top culprit: They’re as low on the pH scale as it gets for foods. A study printed in the journal General Dentistry examined the effect of citrus-fruit juice on oral health over a 20-week period. Lemon juice showed the most severe damage to frontal enamel, followed by grapefruit juice, orange juice and lastly (of course), water.
You might like to slice lemons and other citrus fruits into water and sip it all day, but if you’re a fan of spa water, try using a straw to limit acidic contact and to keep your pearly whites strong.
Dried fruit is a double dental disaster, thanks to its sugar content and stickiness. Not to mention how we usually eat it: Snacking on dried fruit is more damaging than incorporating it into a meal. When you’re eating a meal, saliva production increases. That helps clean your teeth of lingering food particles and protects against acid. So try tossing dried cranberries into your salad, or add dried apricot to quinoa for a punch of flavor. And a good rule—both for your teeth and your waist—is to always opt for fresh fruit. Here are our picks for The 5 Best Fruits for Fat Loss!
Tea isn’t the only morning staple that could mess with your pearly whites. While coffee on its own has tons of health benefits, such as the fact that it’s high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, it’s highly acidic, and along with adding sugar to the drink as many people do, this combination of factors can lead to staining. It’s important to make sure that you’re drinking water along with your cup of joe to minimize the damage.
After a workout, you want to replenish those electrolytes and water you sweated out and simply refuel your body. Enter the sports drink, which does just that, but sipping on these guys isn’t all that great for your teeth, especially if you’re turning to these drinks when you’re not working out. They are high in acidity, and a study found that sports drinks’ acidity levels can lead to dental erosion and a loss in your teeth’s hardness. Plus, many commercial sports drinks are packed with sneaky sugars, which you already know aren’t good for your teeth. Try sipping on a natural sports drink instead, like HALO Sport.