You’ve probably noticed that certain foods leave your teeth feeling strange. For example, sugary treats like soda and candy leave a clear, sticky film behind that kind of feels like fuzzy slippers. But even some foods that are great for your health can make your teeth feel not quite like themselves. Spinach is a common culprit; this leafy green is packed with nutrients, but it can also make you feel like you need some toothpaste and a toothbrush ASAP. What is the explanation behind the phenomenon known as “spinach teeth”?
Along with all the vitamins in spinach is a compound known as oxalic acid, which is an antinutrient. This means that it bonds with a specific nutrient and stops your body from absorbing it. The nutrient that oxalic acid sticks to is the calcium in your saliva. When the two combine, they form little crystals. Because these crystals don’t dissolve in water, they hang around in your mouth. They can also attach to your teeth produce the uncomfortable “spinach teeth” feeling.
Have you noticed that spinach isn’t the only good-for-you food that makes your teeth feel strange? Lots of other plants contain oxalic acid, including rhubarb, beets, endive, kale, and Swiss chard. Among all these foods, though, spinach is the one with the highest level of oxalic acid.
If the thought of eating a salad makes you crave French fries, you might be looking for an excuse to say no to spinach and other veggies. However, that gritty feeling on your teeth is no reason to pass up a nutrient-rich bowl of leafy greens. The crystals, that form in your mouth, even though they feel uncomfortable, won’t harm your teeth. They also don’t affect the amount of calcium in your pearly whites; the acid combines with calcium in your saliva, not what is already in your teeth.
Scientists are on your side in the battle against spinach teeth; researchers are working to breed varieties of the plant that contain lower levels of oxalic acid. While we’re waiting for spinach that won’t form crystals in your mouth, there are other things you can do to save yourself from that strange gritty feeling. Try squiring a little lemon juice on your salad; its ascorbic acid can dissolve some of the oxalic acid. Just keep in mind that citrus fruits can harm your teeth, so it’s best to enjoy them in moderation.
Also, be sure to brush your teeth soon after you consume spinach or other foods that contain oxalic acid. You can wipe away those crystals to restore your mouth’s minty freshness!
Your dentist can help, too; going into the office for regular cleanings and checkups feels great, and your dental care professional will examine your mouth to make sure that the strange feeling in there isn’t anything worse than spinach teeth.
Spinach makes your teeth feel weird, but it’s still great for you! Enjoy your leafy greens and brush your teeth soon afterward so you can have a healthy body and a healthy mouth.
The team of professionals at Tarpon Shores Dental is eager to provide top-notch care to their patients. If it’s time for your next cleaning or you have questions about oral health care, contact our Englewood office at 941-474-9548, our St. Armands office at 941-256-7559, or our Venice office at 941-488-7910.