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We are aware of the havoc that high sugar consumption can wreak on our oral and overall health. But beyond sweets, can we easily identify the cavity-causing foods that most of us ingest daily?

Processed foods, the real culprits

In reality, foods high in sugar and modified starch are harmful to oral health. Bacteria in the mouth convert these sugars into acid, which then attacks the tooth enamel.

Starch is a complex carbohydrate found in many foods such as rice, pasta, and potatoes and is not inherently cariogenic. However, when these foods are refined or cooked at high temperatures, starch turns into dextrin and becomes a potential danger to our teeth. Thus, a food may lack a sugary taste yet still contain a significant amount.

Among others, we can easily point to breakfast cereals, snack bars, crackers, muffins, pastries, pitas, tortillas, etc., which contain refined or high-temperature-cooked starches. The list is extensive, and it’s wise to read labels carefully.

It’s worth noting that foods primarily composed of lipids and proteins pose no danger to your teeth because mouth bacteria do not feed on them. This includes meats, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, oils, butters, and margarines.

Acidic or sugary drinks

Acidic beverages raise the pH of your mouth and cause tooth erosion, making tooth enamel vulnerable to cavities. This applies to almost all drinks other than water, tea, and herbal teas. Phosphoric acid found in carbonated beverages, whether sugary or sugar-free, also contributes to tooth erosion.

And what about fruits and vegetables?

Whether due to their acidity or natural sugar content, fresh fruits and vegetables require chewing, which stimulates saliva production. Saliva helps maintain a balanced pH in the mouth and defends against acidic attacks. Therefore, there’s no need to deprive yourself of the nutrients and vitamins found in your favorite fruits and vegetables.

Helpful tips

Try to moderate your consumption of candies, sweets, pastries, sticky bakery products, and acidic and sugary beverages of all kinds. Check the ingredient list of food products before purchasing. When ingredients like fructose, sucrose, lactose, maltose, and other “oses,” as well as terms like syrup, molasses, cane juice, etc., are listed prominently, you’re dealing with a cariogenic product. Ending a meal with a saliva-activating food like cheese or combining it with a cavity-causing food can help when a toothbrush isn’t readily available.


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