Pretty much everyone knows that sugar is bad for teeth. However, it’s not the sugar itself that is the culprit. Rather, harmful bacteria feed off the sugary coating your mouth or stuck in the nooks and crannies of your mouth. These bacteria, in turn, produce acids that harm your teeth and lead to cavities. Not only that, but these same harmful bacteria can also cause gingivitis (gum disease) and more severe periodontal disease.
Still, not all sugary foods are created equal. An apple certainly contains sugar, but having a lollipop is much worse for your oral health than enjoying an apple. Let’s take a look at the worst sugar-containing foods for your mouth so you’ll know what to avoid.
Sugary foods that are also sticky are the absolute worst for your teeth and gums because they hang around in your mouth. Caramels, jams, jellies, syrups, etc. not only feed harmful bacteria in your mouth, but they also feed these bacteria for literal hours. For example, if you have some marmalade on toast for breakfast after brushing your teeth in the morning, it could be more than 12 hours later until you brush your teeth again. During all that time, sugar-fueled bacteria are working to harm your gums and teeth.
Some sugary foods aren’t necessarily sticky but linger in your mouth by their very nature. Examples include jawbreaker candies, mints, gobstoppers, and sugar-filled bubble gum. Holding these items in your mouth gives bacteria ample time to soak up the sugar, multiply, and damage your teeth.
If you enjoy mints or gums, look for sugar-free alternatives. Gum that contains the sugar substitute xylitol rather than sugar is actually good for your dental health and still tastes great.
Fruit juice and sodas are the two big offenders here. While fruit juice may contain vitamin C and other beneficial nutrients, it’s also a huge source of concentrated sugar. Frequent consumption of fruit juice can be a cause of tooth decay for both children and adults. Instead of drinking fruit juice, eat whole fruit for a healthy source of vitamins.
Sodas are also full of sugar. Additionally, sodas and soft drinks are acidic, and acid can damage your teeth’s enamel. Although diet sodas don’t contain sugar, they are still acidic and not a great substitute for your dental health. Remember, water is always the best beverage for your teeth and your body.