At the first of March, very few would have ever predicted that our lives would be so different within a month’s time. As most have undergone drastic changes in routines for work, parenting, and staying active, there is one challenge that seems to loom in the background throughout the day – the kitchen!

With ready-access to the refrigerator and pantry of snacks, keeping ourselves away from a bite here and there becomes harder and harder! After all, when our stomach growls, it’s now so easy to grab “just one Oreo” or a handful of chips to ease hunger’s distraction.

However, before having “just a bite” of a Snicker’s bar, be aware that some foods have greater potential to damage teeth and increase your risk for gum disease. With dental offices currently operating in limited capacities, I can’t think of a worse time to develop a dental problem.

Particular hazards may come in surprising forms, too. These include:

High-acid foods and beverages:
• Wine – Wine is said to be a healthier form of alcohol. However, how it is consumed creates a particular challenge when it comes to your smile. Anytime you eat or drink, your mouth undergoes an acid attack. Although this is a normal part of the digestive process, digestive acids are so potent that it can soften tooth enamel, leaving teeth vulnerable to decay. As most people do, sipping wine over a period of time simply draws out this acidic bath. Add to that the acidity of wine and your smile endures a one-two punch for a higher risk of decay.
• Citrus & acidic foods & beverages – The acidity in citrus (oranges, lemons, grapefruit, etc.) can erode tooth enamel, leaving them more susceptible to decay. And, it’s not just tart-tasting fruits that bring this risk. Foods with vinegar (pickles, salad dressings, etc.) and tomatoes or tomato-based foods (red pasta sauce, catsup, etc.) have an acidic effect on tooth enamel that heightens the risk of decay.

Sugar & Carbs: It’s pretty obvious that the American population over-indulges in sweets and carbohydrates to an often unhealthy extent. Just look at the obesity rate in the U.S. (nearly 36% of adults) and it’s pretty evident that this isn’t occurring from eating green beans and grilled fish. The problem, when it comes to your smile, is how oral bacteria become super-charged by sweetened and carb-laden foods, which revs up oral bacteria’s ability to reproduce. And, since many of these foods stick to teeth longer, the potential for damage is much higher.

Caffeine: Caffeine has a drying effect on oral tissues. A dry mouth means less saliva flow, which leaves oral bacteria to linger longer and multiply. Caffeinated beverages include coffee, tea, colas, and many energy drinks. While not caffeinated, alcoholic beverages are also drying to oral tissues. Remember, bacteria are the source of most of the problems in the mouth. The next time you feel your mouth is dry and your breath is bad (common companions), it’s because oral bacteria are running rampant.

Snacking: As mentioned prior, every time you eat or drink, an acid attack begins in the mouth. This means whenever you take a sip of cola or bite of a cookie, an acid attack is triggered. When your mouth is experiencing frequent acid attacks during the day, it’s easy to see why the damage can cause avoidable risks to tooth enamel and gum tissues.

But let’s get real here. Some foods are nurturing to us, which is pretty important right now. After all, “comfort” foods are referred to as such because they typically do just that! How can you not relish the feeling of satisfaction after a helping of mac-&-cheese or loaded baked potato?

With the info above, however, you’ll now know which foods are most harmful to your smile and why. Hopefully, this understanding will become your inner-voice that reminds you, “Oops, this can put my smile at risk.” This may help you to alter your choices so you can avoid costly and time-consuming repairs.

As you ‘shelter in’, here are a few ways to lessen the impact of damaging foods and beverages (and maybe your waistline!):
   –  Don’t rush to brush: After eating or drinking, wait 20-30 minutes before brushing. This allows the acid attack in your mouth to subside so abrasion from your tooth brush or tooth paste won’t wear down tooth enamel.
   –  Rinse with water: After a cola or glass of wine, drink some water and let it wash over teeth before swallowing. Even better, swish with water in the bathroom.
   –  Combine sweets with meals: Rather than eat caramel popcorn or a handful of M&M’s as a snack, delay these indulgences until dessert at the end of your meal. Since your meal has already created an acid attack in your mouth, these treats only prolong it a bit rather than trigger a new one.
   –  Brush, floss and have regular dental check-ups: Daily home care coupled with regular dental cleanings and exams are your best ways to prevent problems or to catch small ones before they require major repairs.

For added motivation, think of these tips as ways to save the time and money that you may have required for future dental repairs. These simple tips can help you to maintain a confident, healthy smile that you’ll be sharing again soon – in person!

Wishing you a safe sheltering-in that reminds you of your blessings in the greatest country in the world!!!