To coincide with Dental Health Week kicking off August 6, Dr Peter Chuang from the Australian Dental Association Oral Health Committee shares his insights about the drinks that are secretly ruining your teeth.
For the most part, the old adage still stands: you are what you eat. In this day and age, with all the information out there at our fingertips, we think we make consciously healthy choices when it comes to what we put in our mouths. But what you may not realise is that some foods, which may seem like as healthy choices for your body, are actually ruining your teeth at the same time!
The key offenders are not just lollies but other foods that contain high amounts of sugar and/or acid. Sugar causes teeth to rot (decay), while acids erode away at your teeth’s outer layer (enamel) - both of which can lead to pain, sensitivity and loss of function. Hard and crunchy foods also place great strains on your teeth, increasing the risk of fracture.
The other factor to consider is the frequency of consumption: if you are constantly snacking on these foods throughout the day, it is essentially coating your teeth all day in sugar and acid, or subjecting them to repeated heavy strains - making it doubly damaging!
We all know that fruits are good for us: they are an essential part of the the fruit and vegetable food group. However, oranges and other citrus fruits such as lemons, grapefruits, contain high levels of citric acid. which can lead to an increased risk of enamel erosion, teeth sensitivity. The better fruit alternative is something like an apple or a banana, which are just as healthy but contains less acid.
Pickling is a form of acidification with vinegar that has been used to preserve foods since ancient times. The distinct flavour of pickled foods is often addictive, and many of us enjoy snacking products such as olives and cucumbers, considering them healthy alternatives to junk food, without realising the harm that the acid is doing to our teeth!
When the weather gets cold, there’s nothing heartier than a big bowl of spaghetti bolognese or lasagna! But did you know that these pastas with tomato-based sauces (and others such as napoli or amatriciana sauces) are highly acidic? This is because tomatoes, like oranges and lemons, are naturally high in citric acid. Canned tomatoes that are typically used for making pasta sauces are also higher in acid than natural tomatoes. So next time, for the sake of your teeth, go easy on the sauce!
There’s nothing quite like munching away on a bucket of popcorn while enjoying a movie, whether it be at home or in the cinemas. But while popcorn doesn’t naturally contain any acids or sugars, accidentally biting down on a hard, unpopped kernel of corn (often hidden in amongst all the soft popped kernels) can easily crack your teeth. A special mention goes to candied varieties like caramel popcorn - coated in hard, sticky sugars, they are definitely a big no-no for your teeth!
Did you know that many people actually love chewing on ice? Especially on a hot summer’s day, the ice in a cold drink or slurpy may seem irresistible. But as with all hard foods, these habits can lead to an increased risk of tooth fracture, especially on teeth with large fillings. H2O in liquid form is your teeth’s best friend - but in its solid state, it can become the enemy!
MISLEADING ‘HEALTHY’ FOODS
Beware foods that claim to be healthy, they are not always what they seem. This includes energy and muesli bars and cereals, low-fat products (they are normally high in sugar instead so check the sugar content on the list of ingredients – if sugars are near the top of the list, choose an alternative product. And don’t be fooled by terms like fructose and sucrose – these are just another way of describing sugar.
And finally, don’t forget about sugary drinks such as cola, lemonade and fruit juice. Even if these drinks are sugar-free, they are still damaging for your teeth as they contain acids which damage your tooth enamel.
Dental Health Week is an annual oral health initiative lead by the Australian Dental Association, aimed at promoting the importance of oral health for all Australians. Dental Health Week kicks off on Monday 6th August, with a focus on helping Australians to recognise the importance of oral hygiene practices as well as highlighting the preventative importance of regular visits with their dentist. The emphasis for 2018 is Watch Your Mouth, which brings to light the importance of caring for your whole mouth. Visit, www.ada.org.au/dental-health-week/ for more information.