“You are what you eat” is, essentially, true. And because everything you eat touches your teeth, it’s also essentially true that you should know how what you eat can affect your teeth. Why? Because eating certain foods can leave a sticky film, called plaque, on your teeth. Plaque carries bacteria. Bacteria can lead to cavities. And cavities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are the most common chronic disease of children and adolescents. Plus, plaque that’s left on your teeth for a long time can harden into tartar and lead to gum disease, a leading cause of tooth loss.

Good oral hygiene can keep plaque from hanging around in your mouth, and thus help you avoid tooth decay, but if you often indulge in foods that cause plaque, regular brushing and flossing may not be enough. With the plethora of choices available and the constant barrage of advertising, it can be hard to resist many of the foods that cause plaque. Especially if you don’t know which are the “bad guys” and which are the “good guys.” But don’t worry. It’s Stiles Dental Care to your rescue! Here are six common food items that can be trouble for your teeth.

Bread. Bread? The “staff of life” can be bad for teeth? Yes, bread can be bad for your teeth. Especially the kind of bread many of us grew up on. Bread is a starch – a carbohydrate – and when you eat, your saliva breaks starches into simple sugar. As bread becomes soft and paste-like from chewing, it sticks to your teeth and sneaks into the crevices between teeth. And that can cause cavities. But don’t give up on bread. Instead choose breads that are less refined, such as whole wheat bread or bread made from a variety of grains. They’ll contain less added sugar and won’t break down as easily as soft white bread.

Potato Chips. And other things that crunch. Potato chips, tortilla chips, pretzels, and other crunchy snacks, are also starches. They, too, turn into sugar when combined with saliva as you eat them. Add to that the fact that, as a catchy ad from some years ago said, “you can’t eat just one,” and the amount of plaque a bag of chips could leave on your teeth may be more than your teeth can handle. Still, you don’t need to give up everything that crunches. Enjoy the crunch but sweep up when you’ve finished. Rinse your mouth with water, and if possible, floss after a crunchy snack to get out the crumbs that snuck into the crevices between your teeth.

Citrus. This may come as a surprise for people who love orange juice, a cut grapefruit half for breakfast, or a cool lemonade on a hot day. Aren’t these fruits good for us? Providing vitamin C and lots of antioxidants? Yes, they are. But they’re also full of acid. And acid can cause tooth enamel to erode, leaving teeth vulnerable to decay, and ultimately, to cavities. So how can you enjoy your favorite citrus and still coddle your teeth? Drink your juice and enjoy your fruits as you always have…just be sure to rinse your mouth with water afterward.

Dried fruit. Fruit is good for us. We all know that, of course. So, it’s logical to think that dried fruit would be a good choice when you want a sweet, but healthful, snack. And you’d be right. Up to a point. Not all dried fruit is equal. Many of the most often enjoyed dried fruit – raisins, figs, dates, prunes – are “dry” only in name. They’re actually sticky when eaten, and they cling to teeth and the crevices between teeth in much the same way as other sticky foods. Never fear, though! You can enjoy dried fruits if you treat them as we advise treating fruit juice: rinse your mouth with water after you down your favorites.

Candy. Candy comes in many different forms, and two of them should are definitely “bad guys”: hard candy and sour candy. Candy is tasty because it’s sweet. And sweet means sugary. So, you should limit your consumption of candy for no other reason than its sugar content, right? But if that’s not enough, there are unique objections to hard candy and sour candy. Though sour candy is sugary, it’s also acidic. And acid can cause tooth enamel to erode, which gives decay a head start on a cavity. Hard candy can have its own downside – the chance to cause a broken or chipped tooth. When you need to feed a craving for a sweet, try chocolate (it’s easy to chew and washes away quickly) or chew sugar-free gum instead.

Ice. This is perhaps the biggest surprise on this list. After all, isn’t it only water? It is only water, but it’s water that’s hard enough to damage a tooth’s enamel, loosen a dental crown, or cause a tooth to chip, crack, and even break. No sugar. No acid. No gummy plaque to worry about. But ice is for keeping things cool, not for eating. Go ahead and chill, but don’t chew. Your teeth will be happier and safer, too.

One thing we know that can help you keep your teeth strong and free of decay is regular brushing and flossing combined with regularly-scheduled dental checkups. Contact us today for a free consultation. We look forward to serving you!