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Video: Things that can ruin your teeth

updated 8/10/2009 8:11:39 AM ET 2009-08-10T12:11:39

We know smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee or red wine will not keep our teeth nice and white. We also know that chewing on hard things like pens or pencils can wear away or even break the enamel of our teeth, and that eating candy and other sugary foods can give us cavities. But there are other things that can ruin our teeth that you may not be aware of. Most of these things contain some acid and sugar that you will find surprising. Here are five things you didn’t know are ruining your teeth:

White wine
There is a recent study that says white wine can put people at risk for tooth staining. The tannins and the acids in the white wine can roughen the surface of the teeth. This can make the enamel more porous and allow the teeth to absorb color. So, if a person is having white wine at dinner, and then drinks coffee or eats something like blueberry pie —  that person is at risk of having stained teeth. Red wine does cause more staining, but you are not off the hook if you drink white wine.

Milk is great — it has the calcium we need for healthy bones — but if someone gives their child or baby milk (or other sweet drinks, like apple juice) in the bottle too often or too long, this can cause cavities. We all have bacteria in our mouths. Bacteria use these sugars in the drinks as food. This is why people shouldn’t give children sweet drinks or milk too often and never let them fall asleep with a bottle in their mouth. Breast-feeding moms should also be aware, as babies are also at risk if they are falling asleep while being breast-fed, especially if a mom keeps her nipple in the baby’s mouth. A solution for this is to try to wipe or brush the child’s or baby’s teeth before they go to bed. Try to give the baby some water or diluted juice in the bottle and an alternate drink.

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Cough syrup
Many cough syrups contain sucrose, fructose and citric acids. These ingredients can cause tooth decay and erosion. Many people take cough syrup or other types of medications like NyQuil right before they go to bed and after they brush their teeth. The syrup remains on their teeth all night long. Some syrups have alcohol in them as well, which can dry out the mouth. When the mouth is dry, there is less saliva. The sugars and acids remain in the mouth and on the teeth. Try to take the syrup with a meal, when there is more saliva present. If that isn’t an option, try to rinse with some water or try the pill form of the medicine instead. 

Lemonade is a dangerous combination of acid and sugar. The formula for decay is bacteria that causes cavities (which we have in our mouths) plus acid (which penetrates the enamel layer of the teeth) plus sugar (which bacteria feed on), which equals tooth decay. Lemons are extremely acidic. Combining this fruit with the sugar makes it a potent cavity causer. Lemon slices in water are not nearly as bad as lemonade because there is no sugar involved, but the lemon does make your water more acidic. 

When you eat something acidic such as fruit, it can strip the mineral off the teeth. Saliva in the mouth helps wash the acid away, but if you expose your teeth to acid too often this will lead to acid wear. When erosion occurs, it can cause the teeth to become very sensitive, which makes eating and/or drinking very uncomfortable. Not only that, but the teeth can become yellow and dark in color as the outer enamel layer is worn away and the dentin layer is exposed. Aesthetically, it isn’t pleasing either. Unfortunately this is irreversible. 

How can you protect your teeth from acid wear? Drink a lot of water after eating or drinking. Drink acidic beverages through a straw so the liquid doesn’t have much contact with your teeth. Avoid brushing your teeth right after a highly acidic meal or drink. If you brush right after, you are just brushing your teeth with the acid. So, be patient, wait 30-40 minutes before you brush.

Swimming pools
Those who swim more than six hours a week in chemically treated pools may develop brown stains on their teeth, commonly called “swimmer’s calculus.” The chemicals in the pool mixed with the saliva can cause an unusual brown stain. The stain can be yellow to dark brown, and will be found, for the most part, on the front teeth. Swimmers should have more frequent professional cleanings to remove this stain. Wearing an airtight mouth guard can help.

For more great tips and information, visit drnancyrosen.com.

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