Candy. Red wine. Coffee. Everyone knows those are no-nos when it comes to keeping your teeth healthy and white.
But they’re not the only culprits that can wreak havoc in your mouth.
Here are five surprising foods and drinks that can cause everything from stains to excess plaque to damaged teeth and gums.
White wine. Don’t let its color fool you. Chardonnay, pinot grigio, and other white wines are highly acidic, and that acid can slowly erode your teeth’s hard outer shell (enamel), leaving it more prone to staining from other foods and sensitivity to pain, says David Genet, DMD, a periodontist in Aventura, FL.
Don’t want to give up your nightly glass? “Pair it with cheese, which can help minimize the damage caused by the acid,” he says.
Raisins. While dried fruits might be kinder to your waistline than candy, they can be just as bad for your teeth. The reason? Fruits are full of fructose, a form of sugar, says Justin Sycamore, DDS, a dentist in Thousand Oaks, CA.
When fruit is dried, the concentrated sugar becomes sticky, adhering to your mouth and doing nearly as much tooth decay damage as candy.
A great snack alternative? “Nuts,” Sycamore says. “They have almost no sugar, they’re full of protein, and they will make you feel fuller longer.”
Sugar-free drinks and candy. If you think you’re doing your teeth a favor by swapping your regular soda or sports drink for diet or sugar-free, think again.
A recent study from the University of Melbourne in Australia found that some sugar-free drinks and candy can cause just as much tooth decay as sugar-filled ones. The reason? They have acidic additives that erode tooth enamel as much as sugar does.
Potato chips. They may satisfy a salty craving, but this crunchy snack can cause a lot of problems in your mouth, Sycamore says.
“When you chew chips, they break into really small pieces that can be lodged and compacted into the grooves and crevices of the teeth,” he says. Also, “they’re simple carbohydrates, which are broken down by the enzymes in saliva to simple sugars, making them nearly as bad as candy for your teeth.”
Ice. Lots of people like to crunch on it, and it seems like a harmless snack — it keeps you cool and hydrated and has no calories. But chewing ice isn’t harmless, Sycamore says. The habit puts a lot of stress on your teeth, causing wear — and maybe even a fracture.
“A good alternative is to simply drink water,” he says. If you need a chewing fix, nosh on air-popped popcorn for a low-calorie snack.
How to Help Your Smile
It’s best to avoid foods and drinks that can damage your teeth. But if you’ve just got to have your favorites, minimize the damage with these tips.
Don’t nurse drinks. The longer sugary or acidic ones are in contact with your teeth, the more damage they cause, Genet says.
Go for sugarless gum. “Chewing gum not only helps remove some of the acid and sugars,” he says, “it produces saliva, which acts to help protect the enamel on your teeth.”