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Top 5 Hard Food No-Nos

The pit of an olive can wreak havoc on your teeth.
The pit of an olive can wreak havoc on your teeth.
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You may not see the battle, but your mouth is under siege. There are more than 600 species of bacteria that may call your mouth home. They can cause plaque buildup, gum disease and all manner of problems. Sure, there are some good bugs in the mix that kill bad bacteria, but many of them are very bad guys. Beyond the legions of bacteria invading your pearly whites, eating foods that are high in acid can erode the enamel in your teeth, too, leaving them more vulnerable to tooth decay [source: Cromie].

As if all of this weren't enough, eating the wrong foods can lead to tooth and jaw problems -- painful cracks, cuts, gouges, chips and jaw injuries, like temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). We're talking about accidents involving foods that look delicious and oh, so inviting, but can wreak havoc on your unsuspecting teeth and gums.

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On the next pages, let's take a look at the "most unwanted" list when it comes to hard foods your teeth won't see coming. You can probably still eat them on occasion, but use restraint, because these foods can be trouble.

So, you're chomping on a wonderful PB & J sandwich when that smooth, creamy mouthful attacks you. Well, what actually happens is that your unsuspecting tooth hits one of the little peanut nuggets that make chunky peanut butter so -- chunky. There are lots of foods that have hard parts, like seeds, inside something soft, like pulp. It's easy to forget that the hard chunks are there, which makes soft-hard foods tricky to eat and more likely to cause problems. Some common injuries are cracked teeth, jaw injuries and small bits of food wedged behind gums or between teeth.

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Like the nuggets in chunky peanut butter, nuts can be pretty hard. Young, strong teeth may be up to the challenge, but teeth with fillings or ones that have undergone root canal treatment are less than 100 percent. Biting down on a nut at the wrong angle could cause a tooth to crack, break, chip or lose a filling. Although it would be nice to say nuts are the only culprits, even pits found in common fruits like peaches and cherries can be hard on teeth when encountered unexpectedly. Before you bite down with gusto, know what you're eating and use extra caution if any of your teeth are compromised. That cashew may look like a delicious morsel, but it could come with a hefty price tag if you have to spend an afternoon in a dentist's chair after indulging.

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Keep the ice in the glass to keep your teeth happy!
Keep the ice in the glass to keep your teeth happy!
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Most doctors recommend drinking eight or nine glasses of water a day. Admittedly, that can get a bit boring after a while, but if you want a change of pace, do yourself a favor and forget about munching on ice to put some calorie-free crunch in your diet. Ice is actually a rock, and when you start noshing on rocks, something bad is going to happen sooner or later. The pressure you exert to shatter ice with your teeth produces enormous bite stress. If you love your smile, drink water, and bite into a few crunchy but safe veggies instead of hard ice cubes [source: Mayo Clinic].

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The sugar can do as much damage as the candy itself.
The sugar can do as much damage as the candy itself.
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Grandmothers everywhere keep a few cellophane-wrapped hard candies to give to children, so how bad can this brightly colored treat be? Well, most dentists agree that hard candy is one of the worst candy indulgences for children or adults. It has the distinction of being bad for you whether you eat it slowly or get impatient and bite down hard. A slow dissolve will prolong the amount of time the sugar (hard candy is mostly sugar) will be in contact with your teeth, increasing the chances of tooth decay and cavities. A quick bite, though, can easily result in a broken tooth or a jaw injury. Hard candy looks innocent, but granny is wrong; it's not your friend.

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Opt for a different treat when you go to the movies.
Opt for a different treat when you go to the movies.
Hemera/Thinkstock

Just because it's dressed up in a fluffy, white suit doesn't mean popcorn is harmless. Remember what an unpopped popcorn kernel looks like? Well, some of that brittle shell is now hiding inside the soft, cottony part, perfectly shaped for gouging unsuspecting gums and getting lodged between teeth. Popcorn can cause abscesses when bits of husk become trapped under the gum line, causing pain and a trip to the dentist. In more serious cases, accidentally biting down on an unpopped kernel can even shatter a tooth. If you indulge in this movie time treat, chew slowly, and watch out for uncooked or partially cooked kernels. That way, you'll be more likely to leave the movie with all your teeth intact.

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Sources

  • CNN Living. "Good Candy, Bad Candy." 10/31/08. (8/17/11). http://tips.blogs.cnn.com/2008/10/31/good-candy-bad-candy/
  • Cromie, William J. "Discovering who lives in your mouth: Bacteria give clues to cancer and gum disease." Harvard University Gazette. 2002. (8/17/11). http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/2002/08.22/01-oralcancer.html
  • DocShop.com. "TMJ." (8/17/11). http://www.docshop.com/education/dental/general-dentistry/tmj
  • Gaddis, Beth. "10 Small Habits That Can Hurt Your Teeth." 8/17/11. (8/17/11). http://www.coastdental.com/blog/10-Small-Habits-That-Can-Hurt-Your-Teeth.aspx
  • Gentle Dental Care. "Causes of Gum Disease." 2/27/07. (8/17/11). http://www.dentalgentlecare.com/new_page_3.htm
  • Jaret, Peter. "Dental Care for a Beautiful Smile." WebMd. 2010. (8/17/11). http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/dental-care-smile-10/foods-stain-crack-teeth?page=2
  • Mayo Clinic. "Water: How Much Should you Drink Every Day?" (8/17/11). http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/water/NU00283
  • MSNBC. "George Washington's False Teeth Not Wooden." 1/27/05. (8/17/11). http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6875436/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/george-washingtons-false-teeth-not-wooden/
  • Petersen, Dan. "Causes of Gum Disease." Family Gentle Dental Care. 2/27/07. (8/18/11). http://www.dentalgentlecare.com/new_page_3.htm
  • Shannon Dental Care. "Bad Habits That Can Harm Your Teeth." (8/17/11). http://www.shannondentalcare.com/pages/patient_library/bad_habits.htm
  • Spindel, Lawrence. "A guide to the most dangerous foods for teeth." Lawerence M. Spindel, DDS. 4/26/08. (8/17/11). http://www.lspindeldds.com/dr_spindels_guide_to_the_most_dangerous_foods_to_teeth
  • SummerTomato.com. "10 Foods You Didn't Know Were Damaging Your Teeth." 5/4/11. (8/17/11). http://summertomato.com/10-foods-you-didnt-know-were-damaging-your-teeth/

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