Coffee, red wine, cigarettes—when it comes to protecting your pearly whites, you know to steer clear of these tooth-staining offenders. But there are some other, less-obvious culprits that could be ruining your smile. Most likely, acid-containing foods are secretly wreaking havoc on your oral health—and acid is lurking where you least expect it.
It’s common knowledge that excess sugar can contribute to cavities, but what’s the big deal with acid? “Foods high in acid can contribute to acid erosion, which is the wearing down of the outer layer of the tooth enamel,” explains Dr. Debra Glassman, a nationally renowned dentist based in NYC.
As the protective enamel wears away, the teeth turn yellow, translucent and dull. They might also be more sensitive to hot or cold liquids. What’s more, acid erosion is an irreversible process—so once the tooth enamel has eroded, “There’s no replacing it,” Dr. Glassman adds.
Unfortunately, many foods that are mainstays of a healthy diet—including citrus fruits, salad dressings, dried fruits and even berries—could be sneakily sabotaging your oral health. “When you eat these foods, you bathe your teeth in an acidic environment, and it can ultimately wear away on the enamel,” Glassman says.
Look below to find out which of your favorite foods are surprisingly rich in acid.
- Dill pickles
- Salad dressing
- Soy sauce
- Raisins/Dried Fruit
- Marinara sauce
If one or more of your favorite foods made the list, does this mean that you should abandon it for the sake of salvaging your teeth? “Of course not,” Dr. Glassman says. “Don’t give up healthy food in your diet, particularly fruit, but do take a fresh look at how you eat it.”
There are a number of preventative measures you can take to reduce the impact of acid erosion. Dr. Glassman suggests trying the following:
1. “Don’t swish, swirl or hold acidic foods in your mouth for too long,” Glassman says.
2. Many drinks, especially carbonated ones, can contribute to acid erosion. “Try drinking through a straw or substituting soft drinks with water.”
3. “Avoid brushing your teeth immediately after eating or drinking and make sure you’re using a soft-bristled toothbrush.”
4. “Consider using a tooth enamel-strengthening toothpaste, such as ProNamel.” (Glassman is a spokesperson).
5. Drink water and rinse after meals. “On the go, you can swish a little water to rinse your mouth, and swallow,” Dr. Glassman says. “You’re diluting the acidic environment in your mouth and decreasing the acid content around your teeth.”