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5 healthy foods that wreck your teeth

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By Ella Brooks
 

It's no secret that candy and soft drinks wreak havoc on your teeth. But even healthy snacks can put your oral health at risk, says Dr. Patricia Meredith, a dentist in Iowa City and a fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry. Get the dish on five good-for-you foods that actually wreck your teeth -- and learn how to enjoy them without sacrificing your smile.

Smile-saboteur: Grapefruit

This citrus fruit is high in the antioxidant vitamin C and filling fiber. But grapefruit is extremely acidic. "If you eat it very often, it can cause erosion," says Meredith. She also warns against the enamel-eroding habit of sucking on another acidic citrus fruit: lemons.

Smile-saboteur: Dried Fruits

Although raisins, prunes and dried apricots are antioxidant-rich ways to curb your sweet tooth, they're not good for your oral health. "They're sticky and extremely concentrated in sugar," says Meredith. When dried fruits get stuck in the crevices between your teeth, the sugars keep acid production going, which erodes enamel and causes decay.

Smile-saboteur: Whole-grain Bread

"Sugar is the worst offender when it comes to oral health," says Meredith. "But people forget that carbohydrates break down into sugars too." That means that even healthy whole grains feed bacteria in your mouth, which causes acid production and encourages the growth of cavity-causing plaque.

Smile-saboteur: Popcorn

Although the butter-drenched tubs you munch at the movies aren't health food, air-popped popcorn is a healthy snack. It's a whole grain that provides cholesterol-lowering fiber; plus, it's a high-density food, which means it fills you up for few calories. So what's the problem? The husks of the kernels can easily get stuck between your teeth and cause infection, and uncooked kernels can actually crack your teeth.

Smile-saboteur: Sports Drinks

You've heard that soda is harmful to your teeth, but you may be surprised to learn that sports drinks are too. In one recent study, when researchers from the University of Iowa College of Dentistry exposed healthy teeth to juice, soda and sports drinks for 25 hours, the teeth had the greatest loss of enamel after being exposed to sports drinks.

Don't worry -- you don't have to swear off these healthy snacks altogether. In addition to brushing and flossing regularly, follow these smile-saving tips:

Time It Right.

The more often you eat and the longer foods are in your mouth, the more harm they cause. So limit between-meal snacking and drinking (except water!) -- this gives saliva time to do its job of neutralizing acid, says Meredith.

Think When You Drink.

Don't swish sports drinks around in your mouth, and use a straw so the liquid has less contact with your teeth.

Ella Brooks is a New York City-based health writer and editor. Her articles have appeared in such national women's magazines as Shape, Prevention, Natural Health and Woman's Day.

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