Our mouths are home to an army of bacteria, which feed on food particles that can be left behind. As a by-product of feeding, they produce an acid that erodes tooth enamel and causes the decay that leads to cavities. Here are ten addictive foods that are the worst cavity-causing culprits in the absence of a strong routine of brushing and flossing.
- Peanut Butter – The sweet, sticky wealth of carbohydrates that is peanut butter is the perfect environment for bacterial growth.
- Caramel – Like peanut butter, the sticky consistency and high sugar content of caramel creates an ideal breeding ground for cavity-causing bacteria.
- Popcorn – The lactic acid content of popcorn can easily damage tooth enamel, leading to decay. Also, those pesky kernels that often become trapped between teeth can provide a food source for bacteria that cause cavities.
- White Bread – The pasty, sticky consistency that white bread takes on through absorption of saliva can stick to teeth, which can lead to cavity formation as carbohydrates break down into sugar.
- Spaghetti – This perennial favorite of kids and adults alike is a double cavity-causing whammy: the carbohydrate-laden pasta and sweet, acidic tomato sauce can both cause tooth decay and cavity formation.
- Fruit – Though fruit is a delicious part of a healthy diet and is a great replacement for calorie-rich processed sweets, the acids and sugars present in fruit tissues can cause cavities just as efficiently as candy.
- Nuts – The act of chewing tree nuts grinds them to a paste that can cling to every crevice of a tooth’s surface, which allows bacteria to feed and thrive. Honey-roasted or candied varieties can up the decay-causing ante by introducing refined sugars to the feast.
- Cereal – Though sugary cereals take most of the bad press for causing cavities, unsweetened varieties can be just as damaging. Once again, the carbohydrates are the culprit, allowing decay-causing bacteria to thrive.
- Potato Chips – These crispy favorites are so universally adored that ad campaigns challenge you to eat “just one.” While it’s certainly not news that they aren’t the healthiest snacking choice, many don’t realize that potato chips are also heavyweights in the tooth decay arena.
- Crackers – Like white bread, crackers become a carb-heavy paste when mixed with saliva and exposed to the grinding action of teeth. The light color can be difficult to spot against white teeth, which is another reason to always brush thoroughly and make flossing a part of your routine.
It’s certainly not necessary to cut these foods out of your diet entirely; some of them are essential to maintaining good nutrition. Instead, be aware that they can promote tooth decay and establish an oral health routine that sweeps away decay-causing germs. Even the best oral hygiene regimen won’t keep all plaque and tartar at bay, so it’s important to see your dentist twice each year for regular cleanings and checkups.