One of the most frustrating things about trying to live a healthy lifestyle is that the right choices aren’t always black and white…

A cursory scroll through your Facebook newsfeed is enough to leave your head spinning – one article says that wine is the key to eternal youth while another tells you to avoid it at all costs; this health expert preaches vegetarianism while another extols the virtues of steak.

The challenging reality is that our health does not function according to any strict set of rules or recipes – many choices we make have some benefits and some drawbacks. But what’s important is that you understand the big picture so that you can achieve a healthy balance when you add up all of your choices together.

However, something that is often ignored in all of this is our dental health. There are several habits that are generally good for you but can be harmful to your teeth. So as you try to be the healthiest you that you can be as we head into a new year, be sure to consider the impact your habits have on your smile.

1. The Juice Boost

Everywhere you look these days there’s juice diets, smoothie shops and nutritionists telling you to drink your veggies. While it’s great that this trend is helping many people get more fruits and vegetables in their diet, downing tons of juices and smoothies every day does have its drawbacks when it comes to the health of your pearly whites.

Let’s not forget that even fresh-from-the-ground fruits and veggies contain sugar and we all know that, in excess, even natural sugars are harmful to your teeth and overall health. Additionally, you should keep in mind that juices and smoothies should never entirely replace eating the real thing.

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You may not know this, but blending up these foods eliminates many of their nutritional benefits, leaving all of the sugar and turning them into a form that your body absorbs more easily. So, while you don’t have to give up your delicious and nutritious juices and smoothies, you should consume them only in moderation.

2. Going the Distance

Exercise is one of the single best things any of us can do for our health, no doubt about it. You might be surprised to learn, however, that some types of exercise can have ill effects on your teeth. Recent research has shown that long distance runners have more cavities, dental erosion and periodontal disease.

Though not enough research has been done to definitively prove the cause, preliminary studies have shown that during strenuous workouts, our mouths produce less saliva and that the actual chemical composition becomes more alkaline. This is bad news for teeth because our own saliva naturally protects and cleans our teeth – the less we produce and the more alkaline it is, the more vulnerable our teeth are.

But before you give up your gym membership in favor of your dental health, it’s important to remember that the subjects in this study trained on a much more intense level than most of us reach in an average workout session, so this is probably not a risk for you unless you’re training for upwards of 8 hours per week. Either way, you should always stay hydrated during exercise and avoid consuming too many sugary sports drinks or gels.

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3. Doing Diet

Many people think they’re doing something positive for their health when they opt for the Diet Coke instead of full-sugar Coke. Good intentions don’t always equal good results though. The fact is that even diet versions of sweet drinks cause serious harm to your teeth. Most diet sodas, for example, contain phosphoric or citric acid, which is just as bad as it sounds. Any food or beverage that is acidic causes tooth decay and enamel erosion and should be avoided. Instead, choose unadulterated carbonated water flavored with just a tiny bit of natural fruit juice.

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4. Bottling it Up

Drinking lots of water is a wonderful thing for your health and most of us could stand to up our intake. In recent years though, many people have switched entirely to bottled or filtered water. This isn’t inherently bad but it can have harmful effects on your teeth and your children’s teeth if you’re not getting the fluoride that most communities’ tap water contains.

Some bottled water brands do contain fluoride and some filters take it out, so you can easily address this by checking your particular products to make sure you and your family are getting the fluoride you need to keep cavities at bay.

5. Snack Grazing

To keep your metabolism active, you may go the route of many small meals or snacks throughout the day instead of the big 3. Depending on what you eat though, this could be wreaking havoc on your teeth. Consider that each time you eat something that is potentially harmful to your teeth, that food or drink continues “attacking” teeth for up to an hour after you’re finished. So if you’re eating every hour or two, your teeth may be under attack all day long. If you are a frequent snacker, try to avoid foods that are starchy, sweet or acidic.

As you can see, the right choice is not always clear when it comes to your health. But when you’re feeling particularly confused or conflicted remember that this age-old truth still applies to most choices: “Everything in moderation.”

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