The healthy trends that are damaging your teeth
We are constantly inundated with new health trends that are supposedly good for our bodies. I've been in the fitness industry as a personal trainer and fitness instructor for nearly 11 years, and have seen my fair share of diets and detoxes during this time. When I started studying Dentistry in 2017, I soon began to notice how certain ‘healthy eating’ or ‘detox’ fads are not conducive to an individual’s dental health.
So, what exactly are the health trends, ‘harmless habits’, and diets causing poor oral health in our population?
Hot lemon water
Starting the day with a glass of hot water with a slice of lemon is becoming increasingly popular as a detox method amongst the health conscious. Fans of this trend believe that it promotes a flatter stomach and ‘glowy’ completion. But these drinks aren’t doing your teeth any good.
The lemon acidity can cause enamel erosion and expose the underlining yellower dentine which can cause sensitivity and ruin your pearly white smile.
If you don’t want to give up your morning citrus beverage, then try these modifications to protect your teeth:
- Use cold water. Warm water is a better solvent, so the acids in hot lemon water are more available to erode the enamel.
- Reduce the strength of your glass to dilute the citric acid.
- Use a straw so that the juice is sent to the back of your mouth, bypassing your teeth.
- Rinse your mouth out with water to remove any acidic residue.
- Wait an 30-60 minutes before you brush your teeth as acid softens the enamel and brushing softened enamel can damage it.
- Consider switching from lemon juice to a couple of drops of lemon essential oil instead.
Green tea is packed full of health-boosting antioxidants, but it can cause tooth surface staining. Tea varieties contain tannins, which naturally stain teeth and gums if consumed overtime.
Rinsing out with water after consuming a cup of tea could help to prevent the build-up of staining and keep your teeth looking pearly white.
Fruit smoothies and juices
Fruit is a vital source of nutrients and fibre but when it is blended into a smoothie, the sugars inside become ‘available’ to harm your dentition. The surge in popularity of juicing has led to a rise in enamel erosion, sensitivity and decay.
Drinking these beverages through a straw or opting for a vegetable smoothie can help protect your smile from damage.
Apple cider vinegar shots
Apple cider vinegar has been known to kill bacteria, reduce blood pressure leading to a reduced risk of heart disease, help to lower blood sugar levels, and aid in weight-loss by satiating your appetite. These claims are not wholly support by science and further research is needed to determine the exact benefits of this beverage.
What is known about apple cider vinegar, is that the acidity of the vinegar will erode your enamel and expose the yellow dentine layer beneath. So, not only can vinegar damage your teeth and cause sensitivity but it will make them look yellow.
Fluoride is the negative ion of the element fluorine. It is naturally occurring and can be found in trace amounts in the soil, air, water and many foods. It has been scientifically proven to help prevent tooth decay because it has a vital role in the mineralisation of your bones and teeth, keeping them hard and strong. Fluoride is even added to water supplies in some places because of its ability to help prevent dental cavities.
Despite scientific backing, some people believe that fluoride is a harmful toxin, and with the proliferation of these beliefs, new formulas of fluoride-free toothpastes have started to appear. Whilst these toothpastes may freshen your breath and kill bacteria, they are unable to provide the protection against decay that fluoride toothpastes are able to.
Eating smaller meals frequently is advocated in the health and fitness industry to help us lose weight and maintain a fast metabolism. The reality is that snacking on things like dried fruit throughout the day increases the frequency of sugar consumption and can lead to dental decay.
When dietary sugars are consumed, acids are produced and so the pH in your mouth falls which results in the subsequent destruction of tooth tissue. If an individual is snacking frequently throughout the day then damage occurs often, and your saliva will not have chance to repair the damage before the next ‘sugar attack’.
By reducing the frequency of food consumption and chewing sugar free gum after meals it can help to lower the acidity in your mouth and prevent a cavity developing.
Sports drinks and supplements
Electrolyte drinks, post-workout protein shakes, and energy bars have their place in sport to help participants stay hydrated, replenish energy supplies, replace minerals, and aid in recovery. However, these products often contain high levels of sugars and acids, which can lead to dental cavities.
The acids will corrode tooth enamel and make your teeth more vulnerable to bacteria, which feed off the excess sugars in these drinks. Bacteria can then sneak into the cracks of your tooth enamel and cause decay which in turn results in cavities.
If these products are an essential part of your training regimen, then try these tips to protect your teeth:
- Rinse your teeth with plain water or mouthwash once you’ve finished consuming them.
- Wait 30-60 minutes before brushing your teeth to avoid causing more damage to softened enamel and keep you from spreading the acid across your teeth.
- Use a straw if possible, to keep the sports drink from coming into contact with your teeth.
Many individuals are choosing to switch from dairy milk to almond, coconut, cashew or oat milk. There are perks to these milk alternatives, especially if you have a lactose intolerance or avoid dairy for ethical reasons. It’s important to choose your carton wisely, as many of these milk alternatives are sweetened with sugar and do not contain calcium.
When choosing a non-dairy milk ensure that it is free from added sugars to avoid tooth decay. It’s also important to look for milks that are fortified with at least 120mg of calcium per 100ml as it is an essential mineral that gives our teeth their strength and shape.
Kombucha is a drink produced by fermenting sweet tea with a culture of bacteria and yeast. It’s full of probiotics which can aid in digestion and overall health, however it can cause tooth damage.
The bacteria in kombucha creates acidity that’s harmful to your teeth’s enamel and this bacterium can also cause the bad bacteria that’s already present in your mouth to grow and create an unhealthy environment for your gums. Additionally, it can stain your teeth.
It’s important to take precaution if you do consume this drink by reducing your intake and using a straw so that your teeth won’t take a direct hit from the drink’s acidity.
Whatever new health fad you are tempted by, be sure to do your research first. It might even be worth consulting your doctor or dentist about them too!
About the author: Laura Smith is an elite level athlete who has been a Sundried ambassador since 2017.
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