8 Foods and Drinks That are Bad for your Teeth

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Your Choice of Food and Drink affects the health of your teeth and gums

The foods and drinks you consume play a critical part in oral health, because the foods you consume to nourish your body also feeds the bacteria that naturally exist in your mouth. Some bacteria are more harmful to teeth and gums than others, and will thrive in environments that are high in sugar and acids. Therefore, as a rule of thumb, we want to avoid foods and drinks that are sticky, sweet or sour (acidic).

Some foods are needlessly crunchy, hard, or difficult to chew on, and will cause excessive stress on the enamel of your teeth. Tooth enamel is very strong, but not so strong that they are immune to breakage, chips and fractures. Avoid such difficult to eat foods if you can!

In this article, you will find a list of the top 8 foods and drinks that are bad for your oral health.

Table of Contents

1. Soda Pop

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No good comes from soda pop, even if it’s got the word “diet” on the can. Drinking large quantities of carbonated soda could be as damaging to your teeth as crack cocaine (no joke!). This is because carbonated sodas enable plaque to produce more acid to attack tooth enamel. So if you sip soda all day, you’re essentially coating your teeth in acid. Plus, it dries out your mouth, meaning you have less protective saliva to buffer the effects of the acid. Last but not least, dark-colored sodas can discolor or stain your teeth. A note: don’t brush your teeth immediately after drinking a soda; this could actually decay your teeth faster.

In addition to sugar-laden soda, watch out for other sweetened beverages, such as lemonade, energy drinks, sports drinks, or sweetened tea or coffee. Sipping these drinks also slowly bathes your teeth in sugar, which promotes tooth decay. Choose water instead when possible—the most dental-friendly beverage available.

The best thing to do is to cut out soda pop from your diet altogether. From a health perspective, it makes sense. You also lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

If you do consume soft drinks, try to switch to a diet variety that has an artificial sugar Look for brands that have xylitol, which actually kills bacteria because they cannot digest it like regular sugar. Or, drink a cup of water alongside the pop to rinse away the acidity and sugar.  

2. Coffee with Sugar

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In their natural form, coffee and tea can be healthy beverage choices. It contains a lot of antioxidants and caffeine to wake you up in the morning.

Unfortunately too many people can’t resist adding sugar. The sugar is the culprit that will cause tooth decay if drank frequently.

An alternative is to substitute the sugar with an artificial sugar, like xylitol, or to drink your coffee black or with just milk or cream.

Another downside of caffeinated drinks like coffee is that it will dry out your mouth, increasing your risk of cavities.

Not to mention as well the stains that coffee will leave on your teeth.

If you do consume coffee, make sure to drink plenty of water and try to keep the add-ons to a minimum.  

3. Citrus Fruits and Juices

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Citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit are tasty as both fruits and juices and pack a lot of vitamin C. However, the combined acid and sugar content will damage your enamel, and make your teeth more susceptible to tooth decay.

Therefore, minimize these citrus fruits in juice and fruit form. If you want to get a dose of their antioxidants and vitamins, eat and drink them in moderation at mealtime and rinse with water afterward. Also, do not brush your teeth right after consuming these citrus fruits and juices; Wait an hour or more for your teeth to remineralize before brushing.

4. Candy

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It comes as no surprise that candy is bad for your teeth. Candy is sweet, and so the bacteria in your mouth love to eat the sugar and produce acids that cause tooth decay. Sour candies are even worse. The acidity in those candies accelerate the rate of tooth decay.

Eating too many on a consistent basis can harm your teeth. If you’re craving sweets, grab a square of chocolate instead, which you can chew quickly and wash away easily.

Better yet, try sugarless gum, especially those that contain xylitol. Xylitol is an artificial sugar that bacteria will ingest thinking it is real sugar, when in actuality they cannot digest it and will kill the bacteria. Double win!

5. Dried Fruit

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A serving of fruit is important to a healthy diet. Some people try to substitute this with dried fruit as a healthy snack, such as apricots, figs, prunes, and raisins. However, not only are these dried fruit snacks sweet, they are also very sticky. They get stuck in between your teeth and in the deep grooves on the tooth surface, leaving behind lots of sugar. This is a recipe for dental disaster, as it will increase your risk of dental decay and gingivitis.

If you do like to eat dried fruits, make sure you rinse your mouth with water, and then brush and floss after.

Or better yet, exchange the dry fruit version with the fresh fruit version whenever possible.

6. Potato Chips

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Who doesn’t love the nice, satisfying crunch of a potato chip?

Unfortunately, they’re loaded with the simple carbohydrate starch, which becomes sugar that can get trapped in and between the teeth and feed the bacteria in the plaque. This increases your risk of tooth decay and gingivitis.

Some hard chips can also cause teeth to break and chip, which may require an unscheduled visit to the dentist.

If you choose to indulge in snacks like these, lower your risk of tooth decay by pairing chips with other healthy foods to help neutralize the sugar and acid. For example, add cheese. Also take extra care when you floss that day to remove all the food particles that can lead to plaque build-up.  

7. Ice

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You’d be surprised at how many people think chewing on ice is good for their teeth. It’s made of water, after all, and doesn’t contain any sugar or other harmful additives. Moreover, ice gives that satisfying crunch that people crave.

However, chewing on ice is not a good idea because it can damage enamel and make you susceptible to dental emergencies such as chipped, cracked, or broken teeth, or loosened crowns. If you are an ice chewer, consider breaking that habit.

You can use your ice to chill beverages, but don’t chew on it!

8. Alcohol

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We all know that alcohol is not very healthy. Not only does it have systemic impacts on health, such as risk of alcoholism, malnutrition, chronic pancreatitis, alcoholic liver disease and cancer, it also has implications on oral health.

People that drink a lot of alcohol may find that they have dry mouth more often. This is because alcohol is a diuretic and causes dehydration. Less saliva from dry mouth means an increased risk of tooth decay.

To help keep your mouth hydrated, reduce your consumption of alcohol, drink plenty of water and use fluoride rinses and oral hydration solutions.

Moreover, alcohol will increase your risk of oral cancers, such as cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box and esophagus. Drinking and smoking together raises the risk of these cancers even more because alcohol can help the harmful chemicals in tobacco get inside the cells of your body more easily, causing irreversible damage to the DNA of your cells.

This is Not to Say You Cannot Enjoy Some of These Guilty Pleasures

So there you have it, 8 foods and drinks that are not good for oral health. Although there are acknowledged risks to these foods and drinks, this is not to say that you cannot enjoy some of them in moderation. Just remember to rinse your mouth right afterwards with water to neutralize any sugars or acids, allow some time for your mouth pH to neutralize and your teeth to remineralize before you brush and floss.

If you would like tips on how to improve your brushing and flossing, check out these other articles from Atlas Dental:

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