Summer is a time for relaxation, enjoying the great outdoors, and indulging in delicious seasonal treats. However, while you may be savoring your favorite summer foods and beverages, it’s essential to be mindful of their impact on your dental health. Many popular summer treats can wreak havoc on your teeth, causing damage and decay. In this article, I’ll explore some of the worst summer foods and beverages for teeth and provide tips on how to protect your dental health during the sunny season.
1. Ice Cream and Frozen Treats
Ice cream and frozen treats are summer staples loved by people of all ages. However, these delicious desserts are loaded with sugar, which is a significant cause of tooth decay. The high sugar content in ice cream provides a breeding ground for harmful bacteria in your mouth, leading to cavities and gum disease. Additionally, the cold temperature can cause tooth sensitivity or discomfort in individuals with existing dental issues.
To minimize the impact on your teeth, opt for sugar-free or low-sugar alternatives. Additionally, make sure to rinse your mouth with water after consuming these treats to remove any residual sugar.
2. Citrus Fruits and Juices
Citrus fruits and juices are refreshing options during the hot summer months, but they can be detrimental to your dental health. Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruits, are highly acidic and can erode tooth enamel over time. Acidic foods weaken the protective layer of your teeth, making them more susceptible to cavities and sensitivity.
To enjoy citrus fruits without harming your teeth, consume them in moderation and rinse your mouth with water afterward. Avoid brushing your teeth immediately after consuming citrus fruits, as the acid can temporarily soften tooth enamel, making it more susceptible to damage.
3. Carbonated Drinks and Soda
Sipping on carbonated drinks and soda/pop might be refreshing on a hot summer day, but they are terrible for your dental health. These beverages are not only high in sugar but also highly acidic. The combination of sugar and acid creates a perfect storm for tooth decay and enamel erosion. We can always expect the retail market to create new summer treats often consisting of shaved ice with various new flavours – who would have ever thought shaved ice in a root beer would require a brand new television series of commercials? It must be tasty – they said so on TV!
If you can’t resist carbonated drinks, opt for sugar-free versions or better alternatives like flavored water or unsweetened iced tea. Using a straw can also help minimize direct contact with your teeth, reducing the risk of damage.
4. Barbecue Sauce and Sticky Foods
Barbecue sauce is a popular condiment during summer cookouts, but it’s important to be cautious of its impact on your teeth. Barbecue sauce is often loaded with sugar and can stick to your teeth, providing a feast for bacteria that cause tooth decay. Similarly, sticky foods like caramel, toffee, and gummy candies can get stuck in the crevices of your teeth, promoting bacterial growth and cavities.
To protect your dental health, limit your consumption of sticky foods and opt for healthier options instead. If you do indulge, remember to brush your teeth thoroughly afterward to remove any residue. Remember the ‘car pack’ of on-the-road toothbrushes and paste one wise young mother packs for her family. A rest stop after an afternoon of snacking always comes with the obligatory oral care.
Although summer is a time to relax and enjoy tasty treats, it’s crucial to be mindful of your dental health. The worst summer foods and beverages for teeth are those high in sugar, acidity, and stickiness. By moderating your consumption of these treats, rinsing your mouth with water, and maintaining a thorough oral hygiene routine, you can protect your teeth and enjoy a healthy smile all summer long. We find that the lazy hazy days of summer often lead to a relaxed family oral health regimen. Summer camp is one common area of ‘group forgetfulness’. Car trips seem to invite snacks and relaxed attitudes towards flossing, rinsing, and brushing. Extended visits with family – often without usual parental supervision increase the same forgetting. It will be back to school soon enough, and a summer relapse with oral care can be predicted for some. Remember, prevention is always better and indeed less expensive than treatment when it comes to dental health!
Dr. Michael Dolynchuk is a General Dentist practicing in Caroline and Red Deer.