It's almost summertime, which means that strawberries are back in season. And with the season comes a summer rite of passage: strawberry festivals! From California to Florida, strawberry festivals draw thousands of fruit fans from around the country. It's here that strawberry lovers find plenty of goodies to satisfy their sweet tooth, including chocolate-covered strawberries, strawberry shortcake, strawberry smoothies and more.
Strawberries definitely deserve their praise. Considered a "super-fruit," the strawberry is rich in antioxidants and extremely beneficial to heart health. Low in calories but high in vitamin C, potassium, fiber and folic acid, strawberries are a tasty part of a healthy diet -- but too much of a good thing can be bad for your teeth.
Unfortunately, many healthy foods, including strawberries, are highly acidic -- and consuming acidic foods and drinks on an ongoing basis can lead tooth erosion, a condition that wears down the protective coating of enamel on your teeth. Once tooth enamel is lost, it doesn't grow back. Enamel erosion can cause a wide range of dental problems, including sensitive teeth, discoloration, cracked teeth and even tooth loss.
Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too!
That's not to say you have to cut back on the foods that are good for you. We have some tips on how you can protect your teeth and maximize the benefits of eating this delicious fruit:
1. Eat smart. Pair your strawberries with foods that have low acid and sugar content. Nuts, spinach, bananas, apples and many dairy products are excellent options. And watch what beverages you're pairing your strawberries with -- soft drinks, fruit juices, sports drinks and wine are all highly acidic.
2. Don't eat constantly throughout the day. Waiting a couple of hours between eating allows saliva to neutralize acid and repair tooth enamel.
3. Rinse after eating. Rinsing your mouth out with water also neutralizes acid -- and drinking water will help keep you hydrated if you spend a lot of time outdoors this summer!
4. Chew gum. Chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes following a meal can activate saliva and help wash away debris.
5. Hold off on brushing your teeth. Yes, you read that right! The abrasives in toothpaste can further damage enamel that's weakened by acid. Wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth after eating or drinking something acidic.
When it comes to the many health benefits of strawberries, your teeth are probably the last thing on your mind. But with a little preparation, you can fully enjoy your favorite fruit without worrying about your dental health. Maintaining a healthy diet along with proper oral hygiene and regular dental visits could increase the life of your tooth enamel.