Avoid the enamel-stealing downside of these 2 health foods

Tooth enamel is easy to take for granted.

When you have plenty of enamel, you can eat and drink comfortably. And your smile is pearly white.

But once your enamel starts eroding, severe tooth sensitivity causes you to cringe every time you sip an iced tea. And those pearly whites you’re so proud of? They gradually fade to an antique yellow. You may even end up with cracks, chips and discolorations.

So how do you prevent enamel erosion from stealing your beautiful smile?

Well, there are several culprits behind lost enamel. Health conditions like acid reflux, bulimia and diabetes can all cause it, for example. But for the most part, it comes down to diet.

Sugary and starchy junk foods are the worst for your teeth. And that’s partly because, they’re the biggest enamel thieves.

But before you get too confident that your tooth enamel is safe because you eat at a healthy diet, you should know that there are a few healthy foods that cause some major enamel loss too. And there are a few common eating habits that could be making your tooth enamel loss even worse…

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Healthy habits that steal your tooth enamel

A recent study from researchers at King’s College London found that tooth erosion has two main causes:

  1. What you eat and drink.
  2. How you eat and drink it.

Acidic foods and drinks are the worst offenders from an enamel perspective. That includes obvious dental health no-nos like sugary foods and soda. But there are a few healthy foods that you may not realize are stealing your enamel too… like fruit teas.

If your favorite afternoon treat is a cup of Wild Berry Zinger, researchers say you’re hurting your tooth enamel in two ways. First, fruit drinks are acidic, and the acid in them attacks your enamel. In fact, fruit drinks are just as erosive as soda. But this study also found that hot drinks are incredibly tough on your enamel. So a cup of hot, fruit tea is doubly bad for your enamel.

Related: 4 supplements that stop aging and gum disease

Your favorite fermented foods could be wearing away your enamel too. Pickles and other vinegar-based food and drinks may be good for your gut, but they’re bad for your enamel because they’re highly acidic. That means my mid-morning kombucha is likely eroding my enamel (dang!) And if you drink hot apple cider vinegar drinks (something I swear by when I’m fighting off a cold or flu), that’s taking a toll on your tooth enamel too — it’s hot and acidic.

If you love vinegary and fruity foods and drinks, don’t get discouraged. There are a few ways you can still enjoy them, while minimizing the amount of enamel damage they cause…

How to eat for less tooth enamel loss

King’s College researchers found that you can reduce the amount of enamel damage your favorite foods cause by following a few simple tips:

  • Avoid eating and drinking acidic food and drinks between meals. The study showed people who drank two acidic drinks per day between meals (like fruit tea or water with a slice of lemon) were over 11 times more likely to have severe or moderate enamel erosion. People who drank their acidic drinks with meals cut that risk in half.
  • Avoid sipping, swishing, holding or rinsing drinks in your mouth before you swallow. This increases the amount of time those dangerous acids are touching your teeth. Wine tasters who swish acidic wines around in their mouth before swallowing, for example, have a high risk of enamel erosion.
  • Acidic drinks are best served cold… or at room temperature. Like I said earlier, hot, acidic drinks are an enamel double whammy, so when you choose acidic drinks like fruit drinks or apple cider vinegar drinks, drink them cold. It will reduce the amount of damage to your teeth. You can also drink acidic drinks with a straw to prevent them from touching your teeth.

Tea-lovers should know that there is a type of tea that reportedly helps preserve tooth enamel… green tea. Several studies show that green tea can protect you from enamel loss. In fact, one study found that green tea reduced the enamel loss caused by cola by an impressive 40 percent.

So if you’re just as happy with a cup of green tea in the afternoon as you are with your favorite fruity variety, make the switch. It’s well worth it to save that precious dental enamel, which keeps your smile healthy and beautiful.

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  1. Sipping hot fruit teas can lead to tooth erosion — MedicalXpress. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  2. O’Toole, et al. “The role of the diet in tooth wear.” — BDJ, 2018.
  3. Tooth Enamel Erosion: What You Should Know — Healthline. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.