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11 surprising things that promote tooth decay

Mothers near and far have long told us that too much sugar will "rot" our teeth. What we wondered though, was what else causes our teeth to decay? The answer came in the form of a list from Texas-based dentist, Dr. Matthew Steinberg. You might be shocked at some of the culprits.

1. Sinus medications

When allergy season flares up, sufferers generally rely
Photo Credit: Meghan Glynn

When allergy season flares up, sufferers generally rely on relief in the form of antihistamines. But many might not know how these medications affect oral health. "What all these antihistamines do, is they create a dry mouth," said Steinberg. This, he said leads to an increased amount of strep mutans bacteria in the mouth, which are one of the causes of tooth decay.

2. Allergy medication

Just like antihistamines, decongestants promote dry mouth, Steinberg
Photo Credit: Meghan Glynn

Just like antihistamines, decongestants promote dry mouth, Steinberg said, which in turn will increase the chances of tooth decay. Combining these medications with things like a diet heavy in sugar and carbohydrates will also dramatically increase one's likelihood of tooth decay.

3. Depression / Anti-anxiety medications

Photo Credit: AP / Matt Rourke

"There are so many people now taking anti-anxiety and depression medications, it's unbelievable," Steinberg said. The problem with that, he said, is that these medications often cause an "extremely dry mouth." A major risk factor here is the prolonged exposure, whereas with sinus and allergy medications, patient's are only taking medication for a few weeks at a time.

4. Uncontrolled anxiety without medications

Photo Credit: iStock

"Just anxiety by itself - not even with taking anything - leads to dry mouth," said Steinberg. He added that there are people who are just anxious all of the time, and that their mouths tend to be very dry. This, like with antihistamines and the other examples, can lead to tooth decay and cavities.

5. Fruit juices and vitamin waters

Photo Credit: Meghan Glynn

"So, what do people do if they have a dry mouth?" Steinberg asked. "Drink fruit juices and vitamin waters." He explained that although people think they're making a smart choice based off of words like "vitamins" and "natural," high acid content drinks erode tooth enamel, leaving teeth vulnerable to strep mutans bacteria and tooth decay.

6. Sports drinks

Photo Credit: Meghan Glynn

"Sports drinks, like Gatorade," said Steinberg, "yes, they can rehydrate you, but they can really rot your teeth." These are a particular problem according to Steinberg, because of the proliferation of the products among young people and athletes.

7. Diet sodas

Photo Credit: Meghan Glynn

"Diet sodas," Steinberg said, "sometimes have more acid in them than sugared sodas." This high acid content helps to break down a tooth's protective enamel and leave it vulnerable to decay.

8. Chewable vitamins

Photo Credit: Meghan Glynn

"You've really got to look at chewable vitamins for kids and make sure that they have no sugar in them," said Steinberg. Often chewable vitamins contain oligosaccharides, which provide fuel for bacteria. Add that to the vitamins' sticky texture, which can stick to teeth much longer and promote cavity creation.

9. Breads / Cereals / Starchy foods

Much here depends on the type of starch
Photo Credit: Meghan Glynn

Much here depends on the type of starch you're eating, Steinberg explained. A hamburger bun will turn to sugar much quicker in your mouth that a complex sugar like brown rice. A lot of fighting off tooth decay is reading labels, he said. "Just because it says 'organic' and 'natural', does not mean it's healthy."

10. Raisins and other dried foods

Photo Credit: Meghan Glynn

"Dried fruits are healthy. Raisins are healthy," said Steinberg. "The bad thing about raisins, is that they're concentrated sugars." The difference between dried fruits and their hydrated counterparts, he said, is that fresh fruit has the natural moisture content to dissolve and wash the sugars off of your teeth.

11. Cough syrup

While previously cough syrups contained added sugars that
Photo Credit: Meghan Glynn

While previously cough syrups contained added sugars that fed tooth decay, Steinberg says it's becoming less and less of a problem. "Most cough syrups now do not contain sweeteners that feed the bacteria."

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