The 9 Worst Foods for Your Teeth

posted by Dr. Beau Beecher, DDS on 6/24/2022 in General

Mom and daughter looking at ingredients in package of candy in the store

Everyone’s mouth is home to bacteria – this is a normal part of being human. Certain bacteria, however, can be harmful to your oral health. 

What do the foods you eat have to do with this? Let’s find out.

Foods That Can Damage Your Teeth

When you consume sugary, acidic, and starchy foods or drinks, your mouth’s bacteria releases acids that break down even the most microscopic carbohydrates left behind. Unfortunately, these same acids used to break down food also wear on your teeth’s enamel.

Plaque, a bacteria-filled film that hardens to tartar when it’s not removed, results from this chemical reaction. Signs of plaque and tartar buildup include a fuzzy feeling on your teeth, chronic halitosis (bad breath), and gum disease. From cavities to gingivitis, plaque can cause serious damage to your teeth and overall oral health. 

Here are the top foods that cause plaque.

1. Sugary Drinks

Soda, fruit juices, sports drinks, and energy drinks contain high amounts of sugar. Even sugar-free alternatives are acidic, which can wear on your teeth’s enamel. These sugary drinks essentially coat your mouth in the acids that attack your teeth’s enamel. They also dry out your mouth, which inhibits saliva from cleaning your mouth and teeth properly.

Swap these sugar-packed drinks for unsweetened alternatives like water, tea, coconut water, sparkling water, or kombucha. While limiting these drinks is recommended, if you’re really craving one, drink it with a straw to avoid contact with your teeth. 

2. Hard and Chewy Candies 

Along with the bacteria-feeding effects of their high sugar content, hard and gummy candies stick to your teeth. Their texture causes them to stick around in your mouth, prolonging plaque production and, as a result, increasing the likelihood of damage and decay. 

Things like gummy worms, caramels, jelly beans, hard candies, lollipops, and more fall into this category. Along with having a lot of sugar, sour candies are more acidic, so these are a double-whammy. 

Avoid these foods or eat them in moderation. Or, if you’re craving something sweet, opt for an apple instead. Their high fiber content and ability to stimulate alkaline saliva can actually stave off plaque’s harmful effects.

3. Coffee 

Whether sweetened or black, coffee is naturally acidic, which can wear on your teeth’s enamel. Coffee also has tannins, which are a molecule that causes color compounds to stick to your teeth, leading to stains and discoloration. Adding creamers and sugar also causes the same effects as the sugary drinks mentioned above, making black coffee a better choice.

If you can’t give up your daily cup of joe, consider drinking your coffee through a straw and brushing your teeth right after drinking it. 

4. Pickled Foods

Vinegar-rich foods are highly acidic and can damage your teeth’s enamel, de-mineralize them, and cause stains. Since vinegar is a critical part of the pickling process, pickled foods are best eaten in moderation. If you consume pickled foods, drink plenty of water to rinse your mouth out or eat them with less acidic foods, like cheese, to combat their effects. 

5. Refined Carbohydrates 

Because starch becomes sugar as it digests, starch-filled, refined carbohydrates are highly correlated with cavities and tooth decay. This starch can get trapped between your teeth and contribute to plaque production. Refined carbohydrates include, but aren’t limited to, foods like crackers, potato chips, white bread, pastries and desserts, white rice, cookies, cereal, sugar, agave syrup, high fructose corn syrup, pasta, and artificial sweeteners. 

Swap these for whole-grain alternatives whenever possible. If you do eat refined carbohydrates, brush and floss your teeth afterward to make sure these food particles don’t linger.

6. Alcohol 

Alcohol can decrease saliva production, drying out your mouth and increasing the harmful effects of plaque. Beer and wine are also very acidic, which can wear down your enamel. Red wine in particular, contains tannins just like coffee, which can stain your teeth. The malts and dark barley in beer, along with its acidic nature, can increase the likelihood of stains. Other alcoholic drinks can have high sugar content, feeding the plaque-production cycle.

Brush your teeth before drinking tannin-rich alcohol so that it has less plaque to stick to, and drink plenty of water to hydrate and clean your mouth. Don’t brush immediately after, as this can actually rub the alcohol’s acid into your teeth.

7. Certain Fruits

Acidic fruits like lemons, grapefruits, oranges, limes, pineapples, and grapes are highly acidic. They can erode enamel and make them more susceptible to decay. Dried fruits like raisins, prunes, dates, figs, cherries, apricots, pineapple, and more, are also acidic and have similar effects to gummy candy in that they can stick to your teeth and boost harmful bacteria. 

Limit your consumption of these foods, drink plenty of water to rinse, and floss afterward. 

8. Ice

Ice just contains water, so while the contents aren’t harmful to your teeth, its texture can damage them. Chewing on ice can lead to broken, chipped, or cracked teeth. It can also loosen your crowns and damage enamel. Avoid chewing ice altogether to steer clear of this potential problem.

9. Apple Cider Vinegar 

As stated previously, vinegar is very acidic and can wear down your enamel, making your teeth more susceptible to damage and decay. Apple cider vinegar, when undiluted, can erode your enamel and open your teeth up to damage and decay. Dilute this food when you consume it to mitigate these effects. 

Keep Your Teeth Healthy with Kimball & Beecher Dental Services 

Brushing your teeth regularly and properly, flossing, and avoiding or limiting the foods above can help you lessen the negative effects of food-related plaque buildup. 

In addition to practicing good oral hygiene, regular dental visits can keep your teeth healthy and catch tooth decay and cavities before they cause more damage. At Kimball & Beecher, we’re proud to have a team of compassionate dental experts to help you maintain good dental health. 

Take a step toward dental wellness by scheduling an appointment today.

About The Author

Dr. Beau Beecher, DDS

Dr. Beau Beecher is the founder and CEO, of Kimball and Beecher Family Dentistry. Kimball and Beecher Family Dentistry is known for being a patient-centered practice that puts comfort and convenience first. Over 50,000 patients in Iowa cities travel miles to experience the high level of ... read more

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