The number of fast food restaurants throughout the U.S. has doubled since the 1970s, but more and more Americans are thinking a lot harder about the foods they consume. If the increased emphasis on vegan diets, gluten-free meals, antioxidant-rich foods, and other specialty plans is anything to go by, most of us are looking for ways to improve our health and overall well-being.
That said, some of these trends are more rooted in marketing schemes than scientific evidence. And even more concerning is the fact that these supposedly health-conscious recommendations could actually end up hurting a vital part of your body: your teeth.
In 2017, roughly 127.5 million American adults visited a dentist. While you might brush and floss every day, there are essential dietary components of good oral health, too. Before you delve into the latest health food craze, you might want to double check to make sure it won’t end up causing damage to your pearly whites. Here are just a few trends you might want to enjoy in moderation (or avoid altogether).
In 2015, Americans consumed roughly 6.6 gallons of juice per capita. And while juice isn’t necessarily bad in limited quantities, it does contain a lot of sugar without the fiber you’d get from eating whole fruit. What’s more, there’s really no evidence that a juice cleanse is good for long-term health; in some cases, this practice can be detrimental. Not only will your body naturally handle cleansing itself, but engaging in juice cleanses can also increase your risk of tooth decay. Highly acidic juices can soften your tooth enamel, as well. The same goes for apple cider vinegar, which is often seen as a cure-all for a number of conditions. These health trends really don’t hold water, but if you do want to partake in them, you’ll need to increase your dental care to compensate.
According to recent research, 67% of millennial customers say they love ordering healthy options at restaurants — and it stands to reason that this extends to cafes and coffee shops, as well. Although almond and soy milk may be a welcome alternative for vegans or those who are lactose intolerant, it’s important to be careful when using non-dairy milk alternatives. Many of these options are actually sweetened, so you’ll want to make sure you’re buying the options that have no added sugar to promote better dental health. And if you’re not into using dairy milk, you might be missing out on calcium. Although many non-dairy milks are calcium fortified (and almonds naturally contain calcium), you should aim to use milk alternatives that contain at least 120 milligrams of calcium per 3.4 fluid ounces to ensure your teeth stay strong. These changes might be subtle, but you may reap the benefits at your next dentist appointment.
Of course, your diet should contain lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. But you might want to alter your produce changes based on your proximity to a toothbrush. That’s because, like it or not, many fruits and veggies can stain your tooth enamel. Beets, for example, have become a popular addition to restaurant menus in recent years, but they contain strong pigment that can certainly stain. Blackberries, blueberries, and pomegranates are lauded for their health benefits, but they can result in staining, as well. The same can be said for tomatoes. You don’t need to avoid these foods, but you may want to invest in an electric toothbrush and hydrate to keep your mouth cleansed of acids.
A good toothpaste can also help to fight staining, but not all products are created equal. Although charcoal toothpaste, for example, was all the rage last year for its supposed whitening properties, it may not be making a comeback anytime soon. That’s because a recent study has revealed that charcoal toothpaste can actually cause permanent tooth discoloration and decay. According to researchers, the addition of activated charcoal in toothpastes has been proven to be nothing more than a “marketing gimmick,” especially since these products have high levels of abrasives and most lack any fluoride whatsoever. Even more worrying is the fact that charcoal can end up absorbing essential nutrients the body needs — and its whitening properties are virtually nonexistent, despite that 96% of charcoal toothpastes included in the study made whitening claims. If you fell victim to the plethora of Instagram influencers applauding these products, you’ll want to discontinue using them and opt for a traditional toothpaste, instead.
Since oral health is a good indicator of overall wellness, it can really pay off to pay attention to our dental needs. Ultimately, it’s way better to follow your doctor’s or dentist’s orders than to regard the internet as a reputable source of what your body really needs.