Special Report

25 Foods and Drinks That Are Wrecking Your Teeth and Gums

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1. Alcohol

Alcohol promotes tooth decay and dental abscesses by interacting with oral bacteria to form plaque, which softens the enamel and damages the soft core of the teeth. Those who drink to excess also generally have poor diets, which can affect the salivary glands, causing more problems. On a cosmetic level, it is also worth remembering that red wine stains the teeth.

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2. Barbecued meats

Other than the risk of getting a shred of pulled pork stuck in your teeth, easily remedied with floss or a toothpick, barbecued meats wouldn’t seem to pose much of a danger to your mouth. In fact, it’s not the meats themselves that are the problem but the marinades and sauces, which tend to be high in sugar and acid. Both can damage teeth and gums — sugar by promoting bacteria growth and acid by eroding enamel and making teeth more susceptible to cracking and chipping.

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3. Breath mints

Sure, they make your breath smell better, but these hard little confections can be tough on fillings or crowns if you bite down on them too hard, and they also often contain as much sugar as a similarly sized piece of candy, contributing to decay-inducing plaque. The sugar-free variety is far preferable, not just because of the absence of sugar, but also because some of them are sweetened with xylitol, a natural sweetener that might actually help reduce bacteria.

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4. Candy corn

This Halloween staple is the holiday’s most iconic confection. It’s also one of the worst possible things for your teeth. It’s virtually pure sugar: The sugar content of a couple of handfuls (say 35 pieces) equals that of the added sugars in a 16-ounce Coke. Worse yet, the candy is soft and sticky, so bits of it will linger in your mouth, letting that sugar do its damage.

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5. Canned fruit

Sure, fruit is good for us and we should all be eating more of it. Canned fruit, however, is usually packed in thick, sugary syrup, terrible for the teeth (among other things). Fresh fruit is better — most varieties, anyway — but if you must go for canned, choose an option packed in 100% fruit juice or with no sugar added.

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