By. Dr. Mark Burhenne, DDS
Did you know that candy is not the No. 1 cavity-causing food? You’ll probably be thrilled to learn that dark chocolate actually promotes good dental health. The worst food for your teeth may surprise you.
THE CAVITY-CAUSERS IN YOUR PANTRY
Don’t go crackers
Brace yourself: The No. 1 most cavity-causing food in the world is actually the saltine cracker. This fact shocks most of my patients, since crackers are everywhere and are even given to toddlers as a healthy snack. Saltine crackers are worse than candy for your teeth because they’re a fermentable and highly processed starch. Many people don’t realize that most crackers are highly processed and contain genetically engineered ingredients, essentially increasing the glycemic index and making the food more cariogenic (cavity-causing).
Dental-damaging sugar doesn’t just come from sugar
What’s wrong with sugar? There are naturally occurring bacteria in your mouth that love sugar and proliferate out of control when your diet is full of these processed simple starches. What happens when you eat a saltine cracker? The bacteria in your mouth have a feast, which allows them to multiply beyond the proper balance in your mouth. Ever noticed how saltine crackers or Goldfish become sticky in your mouth as you’re chewing them? Even better for the bacteria, that sticky goo gets stuck between your teeth and the bacteria can feast for even longer.
Bacteria are literally wasting your enamel
Just like any organism, after bacteria have a meal, they have to “go to the bathroom” afterwards — and this is the stuff that causes bad breath and tooth decay. Yup, you can blame that on bacteria literally “pooping” in your mouth. I use that word to impress my pediatric patients and I encourage you to explain it this way to your children as well. Eating simple starches once or twice won’t make your teeth rot — it’s years of cumulative habits. Cut these foods out of your diet and you won’t wake up 10 years later wondering why your teeth look like your grandmother’s.
Opt for healthier grains
If you have children, replace saltine crackers and Goldfish with a whole-grain cracker made of ancient grains like Mary’s Gone Crackers. This simple act will affect your children’s dental health for the rest of their lives. Not surprisingly, saltine crackers aren’t the only simple starch to avoid. Beware of the cavity-causing foods lurking on supermarket shelves and in your kitchen — anything with white refined flour wreaks havoc in your mouth. As you’re taking stock of cavity-causing foods in your pantry, make sure you put dental-friendly foods on your shopping list. Try my list of the best foods for your teeth.
Norman Medina DDS, graduated from Loma Linda University Dental School in 1994. He has been practicing dentistry in Midcoast Maine since 1994. He and his wife Lanita have four children.