You probably already know why soda and other sugary treats make your teeth feel weird; they form a clear, sticky film on your pearly whites — plaque. But what if your teeth feel strange after you eat foods that are actually good for your health, like spinach? Your dentist in Richardson is here to explain the science behind the phenomenon known as “spinach teeth.”
SPINACH CONTAINS OXALIC ACID
Spinach is packed full of nutrients, but it’s also packed full of a compound known as oxalic acid. It contains other things that contribute to the strange gritty feeling on your pearly whites as well, but the acid is the main culprit. It is what is called an antinutrient — basically, it bonds with a specific nutrient and stops your body from absorbing it.
Oxalic acid combines with the calcium in your saliva, and they form crystals of calcium oxalate. These crystals don’t dissolve well in water, and they can cling to your teeth and create that uncomfortable spinach teeth feeling.
Spinach isn’t the only plant that has oxalic acid in it. You might notice that your teeth feel strange after you eat beets, rhubarb, kale, endive, nuts, and Swiss chard. However, spinach tends to contain more oxalic acid than other plants.
DOES THAT MEAN VEGETABLES ARE BAD FOR YOU?
If you don’t love vegetables, you might be looking for an excuse to stop consuming your leafy greens. Sorry. You should still follow Popeye’s example and eat plenty of spinach. It’s rich in compounds that are great for your health, and the calcium oxalate crystals, as strange as they feel, won’t harm your teeth. The oxalic acid in spinach can’t affect the calcium in your teeth because it bonds so quickly to the calcium in your saliva.
HOW TO BEAT SPINACH TEETH
Some researchers are trying to breed new types of spinach that contain lower levels of oxalic acid. As it is, some types of spinach have twice the level of acid as others. But since you can’t exactly test every bunch of spinach you buy to see how much of the grit-causing stuff it has, you’ll have to resort to other techniques to stop that strange feeling in your mouth.
One thing you can do is squirt a little lemon juice on your salad. The ascorbic acid in citrus can dissolve some of the oxalic acid. However, keep in mind that lemon juice isn’t great for your teeth because it is so acidic.
The best way to beat spinach teeth is simply to brush your teeth soon after you consume your leafy greens. Wipe away those crystals so your mouth can get back to feeling fresh and clean!
About Breckinridge Dental and Orthodontics
The team of dentists at Breckinridge Dental and Orthodontics is happy to serve folks in the Richardson area. Whether you have questions about oral health, it’s time for a cleaning, or you’re concerned about something you’ve noticed in your mouth, we want to help. Feel free to contact us at 972-248-9119.