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Female patient with braces that is drinking a drink through a straw and experiencing tooth pain.

Did you know that what you’re drinking might be hurting your oral health? Many patients experience problems like tooth erosion and thinning without realizing that the problem is what they’re eating. Use this guide to know the effects of foods and drinks on the teeth and what to watch out for!

 

Wear and Tear on Your Teeth

Your teeth are made of tightly-packed minerals that keep them strong and healthy. Those include calcium, phosphate, magnesium and more. Your saliva helps break down your food and helps to remineralize your teeth each day. Eating certain foods and drinks can strip minerals from your teeth slowly over time, making them weak, sensitive and thinner. These are common oral health problems with age. However, thinning (or enamel erosion) and sensitivity usually come from a lack of oral hygiene. If you enjoy a daily soda or you love your sweet treats throughout the day, you may be weakening your teeth at a rapid pace.

 

A dark soda in a glass that is surrounded by sugary treats.

Foods that Cause Damage

Some foods build up your tooth enamel and help it, like dairy products helping to remineralize calcium. Others—like sugar—tear it down. Avoid these foods to keep your smile healthy:

  • Anything Citrus: This includes both foods and drinks. Citrus fruits (lemon, lime, orange, etc.) and drinks contain citric acid. This is there naturally or as an additive to maintain flavor. Any type of acid on a label will erode your teeth if you ingest it.
  • Sugar: Sugar mixes directly with mouth bacteria to form a sticky film called plaque. That plaque sticks to teeth and causes decay. Because it’s acidic, it will work on your teeth to erode and decay them. The more sugar you eat, the more plaque your mouth makes, and the more erosion and decay you get. This is especially true while wearing braces.
  • Hard Candies/Mints: Any candy or mint you suck on (like a sucker) exposes your teeth to sugar constantly, which leads to decay from plaque acid.
  • Chewy/Sticky Candy: Any chewy/sticky consistency is destined to get stuck in brackets and wires. It also sticks like glue to the teeth if they’re not brushed properly.
  • Starchy Foods: Breads, cookies, crackers, pasta and anything starchy will get stuck in your teeth. All of these quickly break down into sugar, which can affect your teeth and your overall health.
  • Popcorn: Popcorn and hard foods like nuts, hard veggies and fruits and non-food items can be bad for your teeth with braces, as they can break your orthodontic appliance. Limit them to avoid orthodontic emergencies.

 

A soda, sparkling water and juice in three separate glass cups all lined up in a row on a white background.

Drinks to Avoid

Drinks can be even more damaging than food in many cases. That’s because you can drink all day long, and if your drink is acidic, those acids stay on your teeth up to 30 minutes. Soft drinks (soda/sports drinks) are notorious for high sugar content. That sugar can create tons of plaque in your mouth that causes decay. As we mentioned, that combination is acidic. Every time you drink, your are making plaque that can weaken your teeth.

 

Avoid these drinks that are acidic, sugary or can stain:

  • Soda: This contains carbonic acid, which comes from a chemical reaction between carbon dioxide and water. It stays acidic on your teeth for up to 30 minutes. Most sodas are incredibly high in sugar, which means they are doubly bad for you.
  • Energy drinks, etc.: Energy drinks, sparkling water, and any drink of the sort that contains carbonic acid. Avoid drinks with fizzy bubbles or limit their contact with the teeth by drinking through a straw.
  • Sports Drinks: These drinks are often full of sugar, plus citric acid to maintain flavor. Avoid them and stick to water.
  • Water Enhancers: Water-flavoring liquids or powders generally contain citric acid to maintain flavor. Even if the substance is clear, the acid will still erode teeth even if the drink isn’t staining them.
  • Alcohol: Many contain carbonation (carbonic acid) and all will kill nerves in your mouth, leading to loss of feeling over time.
  • Coffee: This drink, tea, wine and anything with blue, purple or red pigments will stain the teeth. If you teeth are eroding over time, the dyes get into small cracks in the teeth, changing tooth color rapidly.

 

Damaging Habits that Harm Your Teeth

If you want to have your teeth for life, you have to take care of them. You have to try even harder to care for them when you have braces. More than 4 million Americans are wearing braces each year. Some opt for Invisalign aligners, which are removable and which make cleaning the teeth fairly easy. However, many patients—especially children and teens—wear lingual, traditional metal or ceramic braces. All of these types of braces have brackets bonded to the tooth surface and wires that hold them in place.

 

If you don’t brush and floss like normal, your teeth can decay, erode and you can have problems with both gingivitis or severe gum disease. Your teeth can weaken and break easy and they can fall out. That’s why you want to have meticulous oral hygiene all throughout life. Proper brushing, flossing, visiting the dentist or orthodontist, and using oral health products like mouthwash and fluoride can all help you keep your natural teeth healthy.

 

With braces, you can have your teeth become thin and weak based on what you eat, or they can decay and change colors based on how you care for them. You can definitely harm your teeth if you’re not cleaning your brackets, wires and teeth several times a day. Good oral hygiene care is vital to having a healthy and beautiful smile at the end of your treatment. An easy step to avoid problems is to avoid the foods and drinks we listed above. Be even more careful about those foods and drinks with braces. For specific questions about certain foods or drinks, or help for proper braces care, call Belmar Orthodontics today at (303) 225-9016!

 

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Young girl teen that is smiling at the camera wearing braces and giving the thumbs up sign.

Halloween can be an incredibly fun time for kids and adults alike. However, the not-so-fun part is developing cavities later on because of that Halloween candy. Sugar is directly related to tooth decay, but it’s even worse if you have braces on your teeth. There are specific candies you should try to avoid if you have brackets and wires, as they can get stuck easier. Find out what these are and tips to reduce your risk for tooth decay during the holidays!

 

How Popular Is Halloween?

About $2.4 billion dollars is spent in Easter candy each year. However, Halloween candy is a close second at around $2.1 billion in sales. Divided up into individual households, that’s about $44-$47 dollars spent on Halloween candy in each household.

 

If you think Halloween candy sales are scary, here are the facts on the actual candy consumed on Halloween day itself:

  • Almost all children and at least ½ of all adults eat candy on Halloween day.
  • However, the amount of candy consumed is well-past the recommended 6 or less teaspoons children should have in a day. Adults should only have between 6 and 9 teaspoons of sugar (tops) per day. On Halloween itself, up to 3 cups of candy is consumed per child.
  • That equates to about 48 teaspoons of sugar per cup, or about 144 teaspoons of sugar, or 675 grams of sugar in one day.
  • USA Today reports that 4% of all the candy eaten in the U.S. is eaten on Halloween day.
  • Reader’s Digest reports that the amount of calories children and adults alike eat on Halloween equals anywhere between 3,000 and 7,000 calories.
  • Not only can this much sugar lead to incredible health problems and diabetes, but sugar—the main ingredient in that candy—is the direct cause of tooth decay.

 

Chevron candy bag that has candy spilling out of it. The words "trick or treat" is written next to it on a black background.

How Can Candy Hurt Your Teeth?

Candy is damaging to your teeth because of the sugar, which is a direct factor in your risk for tooth decay. The more sugar you eat, the more cavities you could get. When you eat or drink, sugars in food will mix with certain bacterias in your mouth. That mixture will create a sticky substance called plaque. You can’t simply swallow that plaque either. It sticks to your teeth and becomes an acidic substance when it mixes.

 

Because it’s acidic, as it sticks to your tooth enamel like a film, it will work to erode and decay your teeth. It does this by breaking up the minerals that make up your tooth enamel layer. If you don’t brush and floss your teeth often enough, or you eat a ton of sugar, you have plaque working hard on your teeth to destroy them.

 

Plaque can decay your tooth surface to create surface cavities. If enough decay happens on that layer, it can get through to the inner layers of the teeth, causing internal (and sometimes large) cavities that can turn into infections and tooth loss. Sugar is the main food for plaque, which is why candy—whose main ingredient is sugar—can hurt your teeth.

 

Close up view of a woman's mouth that has braces on it and she is holding a toothbrush and a proxabrush in her hands.

Avoiding Specific Sweet Treats with Braces

Anyone can get cavities and other oral health problems from a large candy or sugar consumption. You don’t only have to worry about candy either when it comes to cavities—you have to worry about all foods. Most foods you can buy at the store have added sugars in them. That includes juices, sports drinks, and sodas, as well as the obvious sugar foods like candy, cakes, ice cream and cookies. Always check food labels to see how much sugar a food contains.

 

There are specific foods you want to avoid if you wear braces, as those foods and candies can make it much easier for you to get cavities. Especially at Halloween, popular candies are ones that are chewy and sticky. Anything chewy and sticky will get stuck in your brackets and wires if you wear lingual, ceramic or metal braces. Sweet treats you want to avoid if you wear braces include:

  • Gum: Gum is made to be elastic and sticky and can stick to brackets like crazy. Avoid it completely with braces. After your braces are off, chew sugar-free gum.
  • Chewy/Sticky Candy: Examples include caramels, taffy, Tootsie Rolls, Starburst, licorice, Skittles, Sugar Daddies and any candies that are similar. Avoid fruit snacks, gummies and dried fruit as well, which are all incredibly sticky.
  • Hard Candies: These go hand-in-hand with suckers and mints. All of these candies expose your teeth to sugars for prolonged periods of time, which means a prolonged risk for acidic plaque and tooth decay.
  • Sodas/Citrus Drinks: These and any carbonated drinks all contain either citric acid or carbonic acid, which erode the teeth. That can mean you have tooth erosion and decay all around your brackets, which will be very noticeable when your braces come off.

 

Enjoy Some Sweetness This Halloween

When it comes to Halloween, we want all of our patients to have fun and to enjoy the holiday. Candy is naturally a part of that holiday, but it doesn’t mean that you have to experience tooth decay in the weeks following it. Every person needs to be conscious of their candy consumption on Halloween to avoid tooth decay, erosion and health problems in general.

 

You don’t want to work hard for 18-24 months getting a straight smile if it’s decayed when your braces finally come off. Enjoy your Halloween sweet treats, but be mindful of your oral health. Brush your teeth 3 times a day or after every meal with fluoride toothpaste. Floss your teeth at least 1-2 times a day. Avoid sticky and sugary treats and clean the teeth very well if you do eat them at Halloween. Avoid acidic drinks and watch your sugar consumption. For tips on cleaning your teeth correctly with braces to avoid tooth decay, call Belmar Orthodontics today at (303) 225-9016!