Some foods are tougher to eat than others, and can actually damage the teeth if you aren't careful. As it turns out, the warm barbecue and picnic season tends to be the most common time for eating foods that are most likely to cause a cracked or chipped tooth. You don't have to give up your favorite barbecue dishes or limit your group get-togethers this summer, though. Just know which foods can chip or crack your teeth and what you can do to protect against it.
Foods to Watch Out For
The harder the food, the more likely it is to lead to a chipped tooth. Meat might be fine on its own, for instance, but if you're grilling up bone-in ribs or chicken legs serving that meat with the bone intact a person can bite down on the bone and chip or crack a tooth right away. Corn on the cob is another food that can chip your teeth when biting down, despite the softness of the corn itself.
As you stand over a hot grill in the middle of a summer's afternoon, chewing on a ice cube can be seem like the best way to keep cool. But be careful; ice cubes are one of the American Dental Association (ADA)'s nine most damaging foods for your teeth.
How to Protect Your Teeth
You don't have to avoid popular picnic foods out of concern that you'll break something. Instead, change your approach to eating them. Grill some ears of corn, but instead of serving on the cob take a few minutes and cut the kernels off with a knife. Doing so won't just make the corn safer to eat, but it will also allow people with braces to enjoy it, too.
If you're going to grill up a variety of meat, look for boneless varieties, such as chicken breasts instead of legs or wings, and de-boned ribs instead of a rack of ribs. You can cook the meat with the bone in if you find it enhances the flavor, but slice it away from the bone before serving. As far as keeping cool by the grill, trade your ice cubes for a large cup of pre-chilled water to reduce the temptation to chew on the ice you'd put inside.
If You Do Chip a Tooth
Sometimes a chipped tooth is unavoidable. What you do if you chip or crack a tooth depends on how severe the crack or chip is. For example, if the chip is small and doesn't cause you any pain, you might be fine waiting until your next dental visit to bring it up. At that time, your dentist can recommend fixing it or leaving it alone if it's not causing you any sensitivity or isn't particularly visible.
If you crack a tooth and feel pain, of course, it's best to see a dentist as soon as you can. You may feel it when you try to eat or when you bite down. Even if there's no visible chipping or the crack seems small, any degree of irritation merits seeing a dentist to prevent further damage and can help you save your tooth. Your dentist will most likely take X-rays of the tooth and let you know if the nerve or root is affected by the chip.
Ultimately, protect the tooth while you wait for treatment. You may want to stick to soft foods to avoid putting pressure on the broken tooth, or at least try to avoid using the injured tooth when chewing or biting.
Along with watching what you bite down on during a picnic, taking good care of your mouth throughout the year long and in everything you do. Colgate® Enamel Health and similar calcium-replenishing toothpastes help protect your teeth's enamel from these avoidable accidents, while reducing your risk for cavities and tooth decay at the same time.