Wellness is good for the mind, but is it good for the teeth?
A CBD gummy here, glass of kombucha there — these are just a few trends purported to lead to health and wellbeing. And consumers are quickly jumping on the train, as the global wellness industry is valued at $4.2 trillion (yes, with a T), according to the Global Wellness Institute.
But as the market continues to grow — and we continue to ingest more and more supplements/gummies/juices — dentists say they can be detrimental to the teeth.
“Just because a method is ‘natural’ doesn’t mean it’s healthy for your teeth,” says Jennifer Plotnick, D.M.D., a Brooklyn-based dentist and founder of Grand Street Dental.
So, let’s break it down to the trends harming your teeth — and the ones that are actually doing them good.
What Trends are Hurting Your Teeth?
Acidic Beverages: Plotnick says the number one wellness trend she sees affecting teeth is acidic beverages like kombucha and lemon water. For perspective, the worldwide kombucha market is expected to hit $1.8 billion next year. “Kombucha has a dominant bacteria that creates acetic acid (which has a low pH) and can therefore wear down tooth enamel, which can then result in tooth decay and sensitive teeth,” says Bridget Espanol, D.D.S., a Houston-based dentist. Looking at the numbers, Plotnick says that kombucha tends to have a pH ranging from 2.5 to 3.5 and tooth enamel — which once damaged, can’t be brought back — starts to dissolve at a pH of 5.5.
“Even more acidic than kombucha, lemon water, with a pH of 2 to 3, can also weaken the enamel of your teeth through acid erosion, making them prone to cavities,” adds Plotnick. “Sipping lemon water throughout the day — prolonging the exposure of your teeth to acid — is especially ill-advised.”
Like kombucha, consuming lemon water puts the tooth enamel in danger. And when it starts to thin, that could lead to hypersensitive teeth (enamel protects the inner layers of the teeth which contain the nerves).
If you are not ready to put down the drink, Plotnick suggests drinking them with a straw to protect enamel. “After drinking, rinse out [your] mouth with water to remove the sugar and acidic components,” adds Beverly Hills cosmetic dentist Kevin Sands, D.D.S., who has seen everyone from Kim Kardashian to Emma Stone.
CBD Gummies: Cannabidiol, more popularly known as CBD, has infiltrated the wellness market at an unprecedented pace. The cannabis and hemp extract, which lacks tetrahydrocannabinol (the mind-altering ingredient in marijuana), might be proven to reduce anxiety, but dentists say it has negative effects on the teeth — mostly in the form of CBD gummies.
“CBD gummies usually contain sugar, which can damage teeth,” says Sands. Plotnick agrees: “Gummies [are not] the best delivery method. Like most candies, they often contain added ingredients such as glucose syrup (sugar), sticky gelatin or citric acid, which can eat away at your enamel. Although these are the ingredients that make gummies taste so good, you don’t want them sitting on your teeth for extended periods of time,” she adds.
And while Espanol points out that there is no research about CBD’s effect on the teeth or gums, Plotnick says that anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties could have the potential to help reduce tooth sensitivity and gingivitis — but oils, tinctures or oral sprays are her preferred method. And if you do eat them, always brush immediately after.
Charcoal Toothpaste: This one might come as a shock, but Plotnick and Espanol agree that charcoal toothpastes negatively impact the teeth. While seen as an alternative to harsh in-office whitening methods, charcoal toothpastes might be doing more harm than good. “[They] contain highly abrasive particles that can scratch and wear down your enamel. Rather than whitening your teeth and brightening your smile, these rough scrubs can do just the opposite over time,” says Plotnick. “As the enamel gets worn away, the underlying dentin, which is more fragile and yellow in color, becomes exposed.” Instead, stick to fluoride toothpastes.
What Trends are Safe for Your Teeth?
Oil Pulling: “Oil pulling draws out microbes and bacteria from the crevices between the teeth, under the gum line, and from the tongue and palate of the mouth. It can strengthen and whiten tooth enamel and freshen breath,” says Sands. The Ayurvedic practice is equivalent to mouthwash, but with oil. Taking about a tablespoon of oil (sesame, olive or coconut), swish it in your mouth for 15 to 20 seconds, and then spit it out — do not swallow! While there is no proof that it works, some dentists stand behind the practice, especially since more than 700 forms of bacteria can live in the mouth.
Matcha: As if the ingredient could get any more praise, we finally have a reason to keep consuming matcha. Espanol says that unlike other teas, matcha does not cause teeth staining (this can happen with black tea and coffee, to name a few). And instead of harming the teeth, it is actually good for them. “Rich in amino acids and certain antioxidants called catechins, it has antibacterial properties that prevent the growth of cavity-causing bacteria and help fight gum disease. The antioxidants found in matcha green tea also … modify the sulfur compounds in your mouth that cause bad breath,” says Plotnick. But just because matcha gets the green light, it is not an excuse to consume everything in sight. Remember that sugar can damage your enamel, and matcha lattes and sweets are often jam-packed with the ingredient.
The Dangers of Tooth Decay
When it comes to our teeth, remember we only have one set — and we should treat them with care. By choosing kombucha over dental health, the end result could be tooth decay. “Dental decay may not necessarily show symptoms [but some] symptoms such as cold sensitivity, throbbing and sharp pain, pain upon chewing or pressure are a few signs it’s time to go to the dentist,” adds Espanol.
Before trying something new, always consult with your dentist to avoid wearing down your enamel or causing other dental issues.
“The only problem I have seen with wellness trends is that there is not enough research done in regard to long-term effects to teeth. The product may claim something that hasn’t been proven over a long span of time,” says Sands. “[And then] people stop doing the basics like brushing and flossing and replace them with the new hot thing that claims to help dental health.”