Over one in four adults in the U.S. have untreated dental cavities, nearly half have gum disease, and around 19 percent wear some form of dentures. This means that at every street food fest and within every line-up in front of a food truck, there are probably a couple of people who have to choose what they eat carefully.
For instance, people with gum disease, caries, or dentures may find it difficult or painful to eat harder foods like steak sandwiches or baguettes. The good news is that if you have a dental problem you are receiving treatment for, there are still many options that are tasty yet safe for your oral health. Below are just a few ideas that may inspire your next street food experience.
If you are wearing braces, or you have been told by your dentist to avoid hard foods, nothing beats ice cream and there are many places in New York and New Jersey where you can enjoy healthy versions of this treat. For instance, Heritage Kulfi in NJ makes traditional Indian ice cream (kulfi) with vegetarian, gluten-free, egg-free, and halal ingredients.
Flavors to die for include Saffron, Earl Grey, and Alphonso Mango. Then there is Big Gay Ice Cream (which started as an ice cream truck) at various locations in NYC. This brand serves colorful twisty ice cream, topping them with an array of ingredients ranging from dulce de leche to homemade strawberry sauce. If you love Chinese desserts, then head to The Chinatown Ice-Cream Factory, which delights clients with ice-cream flavors like Black Sesame, Lychee, Pandan, and Kam Hing Strawberry Lavender Sponge Cake.
Tips for Dessert Lovers
If you are concerned about the effect that desserts such as ice cream can have on your teeth, simply bring a travel-size toothcare set with a small toothbrush and dental floss. Visit your dentist for regular checkups and cleaning, so that your teeth and gums are kept in optimal condition. If you need braces, consider Invisalign, which you can take off after eating to give your teeth a good clean.
You don’t need to forego meat altogether if you have an oral health issue. Some of America’s most popular street foods are actually quite gentle on teeth and gums.
Examples include soft tacos filled with tender carne asada, Michigan hotdogs, chili burgers, fried clams, and knish. In New York, just a few places you can find rolls filled with soft or minced meat include The Kati Roll Company (enjoy your roll with a mango lassi on the go), Royal Grill Halal Food (serving generously sized rolls with ingredients of your choosing), and Joe’s Steam Rice Roll in Chinatown (where you can tuck into a myriad of dimsums filled with tender beef, pork, and shrimp).
Watch this to get a glimpse of what awaits you at The Kati Roll Company:
Tips for Meat Lovers
To be gentle on your teeth while enjoying the many types of street food you will find peppered along NYC, avoid foods that may contain hard meat (such as a classic steak sandwich), opting for meat or seafood fillings instead. Ensure the foods you choose do not require you to engage in tearing motions.
For instance, a soft taco may be too chewy and may bend or break metal braces. People with abscesses, sensitive gums, and/or orthodontics may also be negatively affected by food that tends to get stuck in between teeth. Ingredients to avoid include seeds, hard meat, spinach, and broccoli.
Oral health issues do not need to be an impediment to enjoying the best street foods New York has to offer. Depending on how severe your issues are, your choice of foods can range from uncomplicated items that do not need to be chewed (such as ice cream) to processed or minced meat foods that do not pose a challenge to your tooth or gum health. If a dental issue arises, see your dentist quickly and inquire about the most important foods you should avoid until they give you the all-clear.