A minute on the lips might mean a lifetime on the hips, as the saying goes, but what about the impact on the route in between?

Nearly half of US adults have some form of gum disease, a reflection of how our diet can impact our oral health. What we eat can break down our gums and tooth enamel once it combines with the bacteria in our mouths.

There are some foods to avoid or at least cut back on if you want to limit oral health issues. Sugar, starch, acid, and temperature all play a role in tooth decay and gum disease. Let’s take a look at seven of the worst offenders.

1. Dried Fruits

Fruit can make for a healthy snack in a well-balanced diet, but in their dried form, they can become bad food for your teeth. The drying process concentrates the sugar and makes raisins and fruit leather sticky.

The high sugar level offers its own issues as it feeds the bacteria that cause plaque and decay. But the stickiness means pieces get left behind in the crevices of your teeth as well.

Saliva might not be able to wash them away since they stick so well. Drinking plenty of water to rinse out your mouth and brushing after eating dried fruit become important measures if you indulge in this snack.

2. Ice

Ice is just water, but it’s a super hard substance that can cause a lot of damage if you chew on it. You can end up with damaged enamel or even crack or chip a tooth, not to mention loosening any dental work you have. Traditional cubes that come out of your freezer can be as hard as jawbreakers.

Reduce the temptation to chomp down on the ice by drinking through a straw or by chilling the beverage in the fridge before pouring it into the glass.

3. Fruits and Juices

We think of fruit as being healthy, but the citrus options contain a ton of acid that can be tough on your tooth enamel. Lemons and limes are the big offenders because of their high levels of ascorbic acid (vitamin C), but plums and grapes hit the top of the list of most acidic fruits as well. Surprisingly, oranges prove a better option because they have much less vitamin C than other citrus fruits.

It can get worse when taken in juice form since the sugars get concentrated and acid levels increased when more vitamin C is added. In fact, drinking orange juice decreases the hardness of your tooth enamel by more than 80 percent.

You can get the same great nutrition from eating less acidic fruits like kiwi or vegetables like broccoli and asparagus. But if you love your citrus, consider only eating them as part of a meal to dilute the acid and its impact.

4. Crackers

This particular category isn’t limited to crackers, but any baked item full of refined carbohydrates. Bread and potato chips can have as much sugar as candy sometimes, leaving plenty of food for the cavity-causing bacteria to snack on. The carbs convert to sugar quickly and fill the small spaces between your teeth.

In addition, eating lots of highly refined carbs has been connected to inflammation, which can lead to gum disease. Keep them in moderation to avoid damage to your gums.

5. Popcorn

Popcorn might be yummy, but it can be tough on your gums when pieces get stuck in there. The thin husk likes to slide between the tooth and gum and can be a bear to get out.

Flossing becomes supercritical after indulging in this snack to ensure pieces aren’t left behind. If they get embedded, you can end up with an abscess or gum infection that might cause serious issues.

6. Candy

Hard candies are the big problem here since they keep sugar sitting in your mouth for a while. Plus, we’re often tempted to bite down on them and put a lot of pressure on our enamel. Cracking a tooth isn’t worth the short pleasure of a sweet!

Other candies can be sticky and also end up staying in your mouth for a while. They become an hours-long buffet for the acid-causing germs in your mouth, which leads to tooth decay. Eating them with your meal can help along with drinking water to rinse the sugars out if you can’t brush your teeth right away.

7. Highly Acidic Foods

Along with citrus fruits, there are other acidic options you might enjoy that turn out to be bad for your teeth. Acids in general lead to enamel erosion, which in turn makes them more sensitive and vulnerable.

But it might surprise you to know that berries, tomatoes, and yogurt are on the list. Add in the fact that most processed tomato products like ketchup and pasta sauce have a ton of sugar and it’s a double hit for your mouth.

Counteract their damage potential by including them in meals with other foods, and rinse your mouth with water or milk after eating. Also, keep in mind that acidic foods soften your tooth enamel, so brushing immediately after eating them can do more harm than good. Wait about an hour instead.

Repair Damage From These Foods to Avoid

Our tooth enamel is hardy stuff, but it’s constantly under attack from the starch, sugar, and acid in the foods we eat. Brushing and flossing can maintain healthy teeth and gums, but limiting your intake of the foods to avoid on this list is also an important consideration. Pay attention to what goes in your mouth to maintain the integrity of your healthy smile.

Concerned about how your diet is impacting your teeth? Check out these tooth-friendly recipes and don’t forget to come to see us for a check-up every six months.