Dr. Kimberly Dyoco: 4 Surprisingly Terrible Foods for Your Teeth

If I controlled the world, we’d be able to teleport to our favorite places, read people’s minds and French fries would be as healthy as broccoli.

Unfortunately for all of us, I don’t control the way things work – we still have to endure a long flight to go spend a week in Spain, and French fries are frightfully bad for you.

It’s a sad fact of life that some of our favorite foods are not our bodies’ favorites.  But you can’t give up everything delicious that’s on the unhealthy side of the spectrum. Instead, it’s best to do your darndest to avoid the ones that wreck the most havoc on your health.  Start by trying to steer clear of these 4 foods that are worse for your oral health than you probably think.

1.     Crackers

Crackers seem like such a harmless food, don’t they?  They’re so plain and innocent, how could they be hurting your teeth?  Well, as we often learn the hard way, looks can be deceiving.  Most crackers, like saltines, are a hyper-processed, starchy carbohydrate.  The problem with that is that simple carbs are basically just sugar, which is the favorite food of your mouth-dwelling bacteria. 

Cavities and tooth decay occurs when bacteria multiplies and hangs out in your mouth for an extended period.  Oral bacteria have a field day with stuff like crackers, which also become sort of sticky as you chew, and then get stuck between your teeth. Given that crackers are such a commonly consumed food, it may be tough to give them up.  Instead opt for whole-grain versions, which don’t do as much damage

2.     Dried Fruit

It’s easy to assume that any form of fruit or veggie is healthy for you.  And sure, dried fruit can be a good alternative to processed, corn syrupy sweets.  But, they aren’t risk-free when it comes to your teeth.  They are super sticky and packed with sugar – natural sugar, but still sugar.  As you eat that yummy dried apricot, the sugar feeds the bacteria and the sticky bits get stuck in your teeth.

As far as snacks go, however, dried fruit is pretty healthy.  So, instead of just giving up on the stuff, remember that when you eat it, it’s important to brush soon after.  The point is to not allow the sugar-fed bacteria and remnants to stay in your mouth for very long.  If you don’t have a brush handy, it’s always good to rinse well and chew on some sugar-free gum to help mitigate the damage. 

3.     Pickled Veggies 

In the foodie world, pickling has become pretty en vogue.  But as cool as eating your veggies pickled may be, it’s not such a cool scene in your mouth. In its natural state a cucumber is a friend of teeth, but once it’s been sitting in a vinegar and sugar bath for several weeks, it turns into a foe that’s a far cry from the healthy veggie it once was. 

Now, it’s bursting with acid and sugar and will declare war on your teeth and enamel.  If you do get the occasional (or frequent) craving for something pickled, go for it.  But just make sure that you have a big old glass of water to sip as you eat.  And then, get yourself to a toothbrush as soon afterwards as you can.

4.     Peanut Butter

Most Americans have a positive, childhood-related association with peanut butter.  It’s a comfort food for most of us.  But when you learn the impact that PB has on your teeth, the thought of it might be slightly less comforting.  First off, most of your garden variety peanut butter on the grocer’s shelves is overflowing with sugar.  Second – now get ready for a shock – peanuts are not nuts, but actually legumes.

Legumes are essentially carbohydrates, which, as you know, are broken down into sugars, which are broken down into teeth-damaging acid in your mouth.  So, peanut butter is basically just a carb-sugar overload.  You can lessen damage to your teeth by only eating the natural recipe kinds – when shopping, look for ingredient lists that aren’t lists at all, just one thing: peanuts. 

I told you this wasn’t going to be easy.  You probably groaned a bit as you learned the ways that your go-to eats damage your teeth and I don’t blame you.

The good news is that consistent self-care like brushing and flossing, as well as regular check-ups with your dentist, can help you keep an eye on the state of your teeth and limit damage from the food and drink you absolutely adore.

Dr. Kimberly Dyoco is a top dentist in Chicago, a health writer and the founder of One Mag Smile Dental Practice.  She’s also a frequent contributor to several online publications, in which she shares her expertise about how people can maintain excellent oral health by improving their daily habits.  To learn more, head here and find Kim on Google+.