The tart, tangy taste of sour candy may make your mouth pucker, but it could be doing damage to your teeth. Sour foods and candies contain high levels of acid to induce their sour tastes. These acids can be harmful to your tooth enamel, leading to increased risk for tooth decay. While your tooth enamel may be the hardest substance in your body, this enamel is sometimes no match for frequent exposure to acidic substances.
Two types of foods are the greatest contributors to dental enamel breakdown: sugars and acids. Our Royal Lakes Dental team often emphasizes refraining from eating too much sugar because sugars are what feeds decay-causing bacteria. When these bacteria feast on sugars, they release lactic acid. This acid can destroy dental enamel and is very difficult to remove, even with careful tooth brushing and flossing.
Acids are often a less-known contributor to dental decay. Sour foods can have naturally occurring acids in them. Food manufacturers also often add acids to these foods to enhance their flavor profiles. For example, citric acid is added to ice creams, candies and fruit drinks. Malic acid is added to similar foods and also salt-and-vinegar potato chips and some iced tea mixes with lemon flavoring. Other acids you may see on an ingredients list for your foods include tartaric, lactic and fumaric acids.
Unlike the sugary foods you eat that indirectly damage your teeth, acid-containing sour foods directly cause damage to your dental enamel.
Steps You Can Take
You do not have to give up your favorite sour candies forever to protect your teeth. There are some steps you can take to preserve your dental enamel and occasionally enjoy these treats. This includes drinking water or chewing sugarless gum immediately after eating sour foods. Both actions encourage saliva production, which can wash away the acid found in these foods.
Length of exposure to these foods also impacts how damaging they are. For example, if you sit at your desk at work eating a few sour gummy bears every five minutes or so for several hours, you are prolonging your exposure to harmful acids. By enjoying a few sour foods in one sitting instead of over a long time period can help.
The exposure factor is one reason why sour candies and foods that have acids added to them are considered more harmful than fruits, which contain natural acids. People tend to eat fruits more quickly and in one sitting while they may munch on sour foods all day.
In fact, many people who visit our Flowery Branch, GA dentist’s office are surprised to learn that brushing immediately after eating a sour food is actually harmful to your teeth. This is because brushing makes your teeth more vulnerable to acid-containing foods. Drink water instead and brush your teeth an hour or so after enjoying a sour food.