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Brushing your teeth is just one step towards a healthy smile. The second step is watching what you eat, and that goes far beyond just limiting candy. Yes, even the healthy foods can wreak havoc on teeth.

According to the American Dental Association, your mouth is the body’s initial point of contact with the nutrients you consume.  What you put in your mouth not only impacts your health, but also your teeth, gums and, ultimately, your smile. Sometimes, your teeth are the first place to show signs of malnutrition.

Dr. Ben Lamielle of Hilliard Modern Dental in Columbus, Ohio, explains that sugar is widely known to be a cause of your tooth decay, but acidic foods can be just as detrimental.

“Most people know that sugar is not good for their oral health. What many people may not be as aware of are the effects that acidic foods play on their teeth,” warns Lamielle. “Citrus fruits, tomatoes, soda (regular and diet), sports/energy drinks, alcohol, and many, many other foods and beverages that we regularly consume are acidic. Acid is directly corrosive to teeth. Additionally, when the pH of our mouths is low, certain bacteria that cause damage flourish. Another pathway for acid damage comes into play with people who suffer from acid reflux-type disorders. Digestive acids are incredibly corrosive, so eating foods that trigger reflux can lead to remarkable damage.”

Some other things to consider when snacking are the forms of food: whether they are liquid, solid, sticky, or slow to dissolve makes a difference in the way they affect your teeth. The bacteria in your mouth feeds off of sugars and carbohydrates, so the more sugar and acid you consume, the higher your risk of tooth decay. While vitamin C is important for healthy gums, overdoing it with lemon and oranges can actually cause the enamel on your teeth to wear away.
Aside from the corrosive damage food does to teeth, there are also foods that cause cosmetic damage. “Beverages or foods that stain (red wine, coffee, cola, tomato-based pasta sauce, etc.) will negatively impact the appearance of your smile,” says Lamielle.  

That’s because, believe it or not, teeth aren’t solid. “[Teeth] are actually porous. These pores, not to mention any cracks your teeth may have, collect stains and lead to changes in color and shade.”

To combat the negative effects that food can have on teeth, Dr. Lamielle suggests brushing at least twice a day, getting professional dental cleanings, and flossing. “Flossing is the key to good gum health. You can have beautiful teeth, but, without a healthy foundation, those teeth won’t be in your mouth for long.”

In addition to proper dental care, try limiting the following foods to help you maintain a beautiful and healthy smile.

  • 1. Balsamic Vinegar

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    Balsamic vinegar is a double whammy offender to your smile. Not only is it acidic, so that it can erode enamel, it also stains. If you do enjoy this healthy dressing, make sure it’s on a salad with a lot of lettuce. Lettuce has a natural ability to help teeth defend against corrosion with a protective film.

  • 2. Berries

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    Berries may be good for your health, but blueberries, raspberries, cherries, and other berries can leave some serious stains on your teeth. Be sure to rinse your mouth out with water after eating, and brush if you can.

  • 3. Citrus

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    Despite the health benefits of lemon water and oranges, too much citrus can damage your teeth. Acidic foods can erode enamel, leaving teeth susceptible to decay over time.

  • 4. Coffee

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    Sure, coffee is a great way to jump-start your day, but did you know that coffee and tea dry out your mouth and stain your teeth? Also, any added sugar can lead to decay.

  • 5. Dried Fruit

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    Sticky foods like dried fruit stay on teeth longer, leading to decay and the weakening of the enamel. If you must indulge, brush and floss, or at least rinse, right after eating.

    See more foods that aren't so good for your pearly whites.

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