30 Worst Foods For Your Teeth, According To Dentists
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According to a 2016 study published in Advances in nutrition, Cavities affect an estimated 80% of the world’s population – and nearly a quarter of adults in the United States have untreated cavities. A leading cause is poor diet quality and high sugar consumption, the study said. But cavities are just one of many oral health problems that can be caused or exacerbated by the foods you eat, says Joseph Dill, DDS, MBA, chief dental officer at Delta Dental Plans Association.
“Everyday nutrition plays a direct role in oral health, which is essential for overall health,” explains Dr. Dill out. “Brushing your teeth, flossing and going to the dentist regularly are all associated with maintaining a healthy smile, but there’s more to oral health. The important nutrients in a healthy diet strengthen the bone that supports your teeth and protects against tooth decay, gum disease and oral cancer.”
On the other hand, a diet devoid of nutritional value can have the opposite effect, such as discoloration, enamel erosion and tooth decay. “That’s why it’s so important to brush at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and floss once a day,” adds Dr. Dill please.
To make sure you stay away from the biggest offenders and eat as much tooth-friendly foods as possible, below is a list of the worst foods for your teeth, according to dentists. It includes all the foods your mom restricted growing up — like candy and soda (sorry!) — and a few others that might surprise you.
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Any food that is soft or chewy and tends to stick to teeth is considered cariogenic, meaning it’s more likely to cause tooth decay or cavities, says Jaclyn Tomsic, MD, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon based in Ohio. Taffy is pretty much the poster child for cariogenic foods.
Believe it or not, banana is cariogenic. Due to its soft texture, the fruit can easily find its way into the nooks and crannies of your teeth and gums, where they hang out to cause tooth decay. “You should try not to eat these foods at times when you can’t brush your teeth on time,” says Dr. Tomsic.
Caramel is known for its gooey, gooey goodness, but that’s exactly what’s bad for your teeth. Because it sticks to it while — and long after — you’re chewing, it’s much more likely to cause cavities than other foods.
You might not think so, but raisins (and many other dried fruits) are just as chewy and sticky as your favorite gummy candies, making them equally responsible for dental problems. Their texture makes them harder to brush out, which increases the likelihood of cavities, says Dr. Tomsic.
Dr. Tomsic says that hard foods, such as nuts, can break down or damage weak teeth. So, if you are a fan of snacking on mixed nuts, opt for softer varieties, such as walnuts.
According to an October report by Byte, which gathered input from the company’s network of dentists, soy sauce is one of the top six foods most commonly discolored teeth. When you think about the wide variety of dishes it lands on – and the dark hue – it makes sense.
Like nuts, hard candy can wreak havoc on brittle teeth. Especially if you already have crowns or implants.
It doesn’t just stick to your palate; it sticks everywhere, including between and on the sides of your teeth. In addition, most varieties are loaded with sugar. These properties make peanut butter a food that is not tooth-friendly, says Dr. Tomsic.
Crackers, especially the hard, seedy kind, are responsible for the occasional chipped tooth, especially for people with sensitive, weak teeth, says Dr. Tomsic.
According to Byte’s 2022 report, balsamic vinegar is a major culprit for stains. It is also very acidic, which according to research can lead to tooth enamel erosion over time.
It should come as no surprise that toffee is on this list, as it contains all the properties of a tooth-damaging food: it’s hard, yet chewy, and full of sugar, meaning it can cause chips, get stuck in your teeth, and eventually lead to cavities.
Research shows that sugary soft drinks make teeth more prone to cavities, and carbonated drinks in general cause erosive damage to enamel over time. Dark colas are also responsible for coloration, according to Byte’s report.
If you know, you know. The sinful satisfaction of ice crunching is something only a few people understand, but attractive as it is, it’s not worth the potential damage to your teeth. The hardness of ice cubes can crack or chip a tooth or veneer. And it can also damage tooth enamel, making teeth more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures.
Dr. Dill explains that tomatoes, while nutritious, aren’t always good for your smile. That’s because they’re highly acidic and “can damage tooth enamel if eaten in excess, cause pain, sensitivity, discoloration, and make teeth more vulnerable to tooth decay.” However, these foods “can be eaten in moderation,” he adds.
Chips are easy to eat too much and also easy to choose between. “Starchy foods feed the bacteria on your teeth and gums and can lead to oral health problems,” says Dr. Dill. “When bacteria are fed, acids form, which can break down your tooth enamel and cause tooth decay. Bacteria can also cause gum disease and bone loss, which can eventually lead to tooth loss.”
Cookies, especially the soft and chewy variety, leave bits of food that saliva doesn’t easily wash away, and are therefore more likely to cause spoilage, says Dr. Dill.
Tough, chewy and sugary – if you’re a licorice fan, you have to admit that your teeth and jaws don’t always feel right after chewing. And that feeling reflects its place on the healthy spectrum. The candy is sticky and sugary, which is actually an invitation to bad oral bacteria.
Many fruit juices are both acidic and sugary, which is not a good combination for teeth. The acid from orange juice, for example, can erode protective tooth enamel over time, while the sugars linger and cause decay, says Dr. Tomsic.
Colorful popsicles ranked on Byte’s list of foods that discolor teeth. They are also not great for those whose teeth are sensitive to cold temperatures.
We hate to break it to you, but your morning pick-me-up is probably causing blemishes. Along with soda, it ranks as a high-stain offender in Byte’s report — and it’s also acidic, making teeth more vulnerable to enamel wear.
According to Byte’s report, colorful gummy candy is one of the worst foods you can eat for your teeth when it comes to stains. The gummy texture and acidic coating only make matters worse, as it sticks to teeth and brings a particularly spicy sugar into the mix. “Sour candies are also often very acidic and provide no nutritional value, which should be avoided,” says Dr. Dill.
When consumed in moderation, red wine is believed to have benefits for heart health, according to Mayo Clinic, but the nightcap won’t do much good for your teeth. It’s the third highest coloring drink on the Byte list, which shouldn’t come as a surprise if you’re a wine connoisseur. That nightly post-drink cleaning always takes a little extra effort to remove the evidence.
If you’ve ever tried to get a turmeric stain out of just about anything, then you understand its staying power. Unfortunately, so are teeth, which is why Byte’s report ranks curry (especially turmeric-based ones) on the list of dyes.
You’d think tea, especially green tea, would avoid this list unscathed, but that’s not the case. Tea as a whole made Byte’s list of teeth-staining agents, though one study found that adding milk to your cup may prevent the damage.
Like tomatoes, citrus fruits are highly acidic and can erode tooth enamel. It’s fine to squeeze some into your water now and then, but “don’t suck on the sour juice of a lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit,” warns Dr. Dill.
Pretzels are a starchy food that, according to Dr. Dill is a buffet for oral bacteria, especially when their remains aren’t quickly brushed away. When the bacteria feed on it, it creates an acidic oral environment, making teeth more vulnerable to erosion, cavities, and more.
Here’s another starchy food that you wouldn’t suspect is “bad” for your teeth, but Dr. Dill says it’s as responsible as pretzels and chips for becoming a breeding ground for acidity and an imbalanced oral microbiome.
If you think you’re going to eat a quick, healthy breakfast, you may not realize the impact it has on your teeth. Granola bars and granola bars may fit into your diet, but they also fit the crevices between your teeth, and many contain added sugars, both of which can lead to cavities.
Dr. Dill says that soft breads, such as white bread, in particular, are more likely to get stuck and stick to teeth, meaning they’re more likely to cause oral health problems.
Cake is associated with celebration, but Dr. Dill says you should at least wash it down with water for oral health. “The more your teeth are exposed to sugary or acidic foods, the more likely they are to cause damage. So enjoy that dessert after dinner and make sure to finish the meal with a refreshing drink of water to brush your teeth with,” he says.
Kayla Blaton Kayla Blanton is a freelance writer covering all things health and nutrition for men’s, women’s health and prevention.
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30 Worst Foods For Your Teeth, According To Dentists