5 Things You Didn't Know Were Harming Your Teeth

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When it comes to the health of your teeth, the hard-and-fast rules are brush two to three times a day and floss regularly. What many people don't know is that there is more to consider. Our teeth do a lot of dirty work every day, and as a result of our food and drink choices, our teeth become coated with a new film of plaque daily—which is full of bacteria.

The bad bacteria feeds on carbohydrates and sugars. So when you eat sugar, the bacteria consumes the sugar particles left on your teeth, digests them, and then emit acids. These acids coat your teeth, which can lead to erosion and, over time, tooth decay. But it's not only sugar that can have a negative impact on your teeth. Carb-rich foods and acidic foods can have the same effect as sugar—even natural, good-for-you foods like fruits, which are full of natural sugars, can be problematic. Beware of these five foods and drinks that are damaging to your teeth:

1. Citrus and other acidic foods

The acidic properties in citrus can actually erode enamel, making teeth more susceptible to decay over time. Grapefruit and lemon, in particular, are highly acidic. So that hot water with lemon you start your day with? You might not want to make it an everyday thing—for the sake of your teeth. As for apple cider vinegar, it has been used as an all-natural teeth whitener—but be careful because it's very acidic so too much can weaken your enamel

2. Chips

As much as you may love that crunch, potato, sweet potato, and cassava chips are filled with starch. When you eat starch it quickly becomes sugar and tends to get trapped in your teeth. If you don’t floss afterward, it can lead to plaque buildup.

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3. Sugar-filled and sugar-free drinks

When you eat sugary foods or sip sugary drinks like juice, tea, or soda, plaque bacteria uses that sugar to produce acids that attack your enamel, which is the hard surface of your tooth. And this is all types of sugar: high-fructose corn syrup, honey, coconut sugar included. What’s more, the acids found in soda harm teeth even more than the sugar. In fact, many people are surprised to hear that even sugar-free diet sodas—which contain citric and phosphoric acid—can erode enamel over time.

4. Alcohol (but not for the reason you think)

The American Dental Association (ADA) warns that one of the often-forgotten side effects of alcohol can be just as damaging to your teeth: dehydration. Alcohol causes dehydration and dry mouth, which leads to less saliva flow and thus tooth decay or other oral infections. So make sure you are hydrating properly with water and be mindful of your alcohol intake—especially if you are mixing your drinks with citrus, sodas, or juices.

5. Sports drinks and other "healthy" drinks

Drinks you would normally consider healthy—including coconut water and kombucha—are often full of sugar and can cause tooth decay. As for sports drinks,in a 2008 study researchers at the University of Iowa measured enamel wear after steeping teeth in several different beverages for 25 hours. Lemon-lime Gatorade resulted in the most wear, followed by Red Bull.

Of course, we can't eliminate all sugars and carb-rich foods from our diet, but we can try to eat more foods that are good for our smile like water, cheese, yogurt, and nuts. The best advice to keep cavities at bay is to remove the plaque by brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, and receiving a dental cleaning twice a year.

Want to learn more about the health of your teeth? Here's what your smile says about your health and how to take care of your mouth holistically.

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