For most, summertime is a highly-anticipated time of year. Bringing with it poolside barbecues, beach volleyball, and sun kissed complexions, the ‘Season of the Sun’ also tends to reintroduce foods and drinks that are likely to cause some damage to your dental hygiene. And while some orally-detrimental foods and drinks can be easily recognized, there are several popular summertime snacks which frequently disguise themselves as healthy treats. So before you pour yourself an ice cold glass of freshly-squeezed lemonade, or ‘share a Coke with a friend,’ let’s expose some of these enamel-infiltrating eats!
1. Energy/Sports drinks and sodas
This should be of no surprise to anyone, as we are all aware of the spiking levels of sugar found in most popular sodas and energy drinks. And while these high levels of sugar and phosphoric acid are, in themselves, immensely damaging to the condition of your teeth, the way or rate at which we consume these drinks is just as influential. Whether it’s an extra large Coke at a movie theatre or a crafted cocktail during happy hour, these drinks are commonly consumed over an extended period, allotting a generous amount of time for the sugar to find a snug little home in and between your teeth, encouraging the bacteria already present in your mouth to convert said sugars into something even more damaging—acid. This causes the teeth to dissolve, and often leads to cavities.
2. Citrus (foods and beverages)
Ah, citrus! So refreshing, so popular, so abundant! Lemons, limes, grapefruits, oranges, tamarinds, the list is seemingly never-ending. And though the vitamin C present in citrus fruit provides an astounding number of health benefits—acting as a detoxifier, an antioxidant, and improving your immune system, among many, many others—it is the ever so satisfying tartness which threatens the well-being of our teeth! Planning on reaching for the freshly-squeezed lemonade over that sugar-loaded cola? You may want to think again, as studies show that citric acid-based drinks are generally just as damaging to your oral health as the aforementioned energy drinks and sodas, as the citric acid in these fruits (and fruit juices) can rapidly erode the enamel on the surface of your teeth, making them more prone to premature decay. If you are zest-obsessed—and who isn’t during the spring and summer months?!—worry not. By using a straw to consume any citric acid-based beverages, your chances of enamel erosion are significantly lessened versus snacking on a raw lemon wedge or a grapefruit slice!
3. Distilled Water
The sneakiest of the enamel invaders on our list, distilled water! But how? When water is ‘distilled’, it is boiled, evaporated, and vapor condensed. This process, distillation, strips any and all health-benefiting nutrients and minerals from the water—sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, the key element for strong bones and teeth. Even though distilled water can be very beneficial for ridding the body of toxins by absorption, increased amounts of distilled water consumption will cause the water to draw the minerals of which it is devoid from our bodies natural mineral and nutrient stores. Though the occasional intake of distilled water is unlikely to have major adverse health effects, we recommend sticking to the good ol’ spring or tap!
‘Alright, so I’ll decrease the amount of sugary, acidic beverages by filling my glass with more ice!’ That might not be the best idea, either. While munching on ice cubes might be viewed as a healthier alternative to snacking on candies or potato chips (and considering the lack of additives or fats present, you might be right), chewing on ice makes your teeth extra vulnerable to cracks and breakage.
Say it isn’t so! Popular year-round, this yummy, low-calorie snack is small but mighty. Popcorn kernels, even fully cooked and paper thin, are hard enough to crack a tooth under mass amounts of pressure. Un-popped kernels, as you can imagine, are an especially high risk, and one that is multiplied threefold for those of us with existing fillings. In the event that a piece of popcorn gets lodged between your tooth and your gum, we highly recommend tending to it immediately, as its slight size and width can allow it to remain stuck for extended periods of time, causing severe irritation and swelling of the surrounding gum, and resulting tooth sensitivity.
Though we are profound advocates for oral health, we, too, are guilty of indulging in these and other summer-appropriate snacks. If you find yourself unable to control your sweet tooth, or really just needing a refreshing juice while you bask in the sun, we completely understand. We might just suggest keeping a few straws and some floss nearby!