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The Best (and Worst) Foods for Your Teeth

The Best (and Worst) Foods for Your Teeth

Every other week, there’s a new diet fad that promises a healthier lifestyle or dramatic weight loss. Every day, thousands flock to their local grocery store in search of diet shakes and “organic” veggies. After the new year, gyms become flooded with newly health-conscious people. Society has an ingrained interest in keeping their body fit and healthy — for both aesthetic and health-related reasons. Go on Instagram for a few minutes and you’ll see how seriously the world takes healthy eating.

The thing is, very few people consider how the food they eat affects every part of their body. They look at fats and proteins but they don’t consider the impact something particularly acidic will have on their teeth. Dental health influences full-body health. If people want to be truly healthy with what they’re eating, they need to take a closer look at what foods are good (and which foods are bad) for their teeth.

The Worst Foods For Your Teeth

Sour candy

sour gummy worm candies
Sour Candy

Sweets and teeth rarely mix but sour candy takes the metaphorical cake when it comes to damaging enamel. Sour candies, like gummy worms and sour patch kids, contain harmful acids that love to eat away at teeth. Their sticky consistency means they can easily cling to the crevices in the molars — causing cavities hours after they were eaten. Kids in particular who struggle to brush their teeth correctly should stay away from these lip-puckering snacks.

If you’re a fan of sour candies, make sure to brush and floss after chowing down. This will save you some unnecessary trips to the dentist!

Citrus

fruits that have citrus in them such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes
Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits may be delicious (and nutritious) but they can be pretty damaging for your teeth. Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes contain acids that wear down enamel. Grapefruits and lemons are the worst culprits while limes and oranges are a little better. When done in excess, placing a lemon in your water or adding lime juice to drinks can have some unfortunate side-effects: tooth decay and cavities.

If you love citrus fruits and want to eat them every day, be sure to brush afterward. It’s also a good idea to wash away any citrus residue with a glass of water.

Wine

Wine Glasses Clinking
Wine

We hate it but it’s true: wine isn’t good for your teeth. As unfortunate as it is, wine is one of the worst drinks when it comes to teeth. Most people already know the horrors of red wine enamel stains but even if you stick to just white wine, you could still be doing some damage. Both white and red wine contain erosive acids that can damage enamel. Plus, all alcohol causes dry-mouth which can quickly lead to tooth decay.

If you like to have a glass of wine at night, that’s completely fine. Just make sure to brush and floss before you go to bed. If you’re drinking a lot of wine regularly and you’re noticing severe staining or erosion, it might be time to schedule an appointment at Stanley Dentistry.

Caramel

Pouring caramel on a dessert
Caramel

Caramel is one of those foods that tastes great…but feels horrible on your teeth post-snack. The reason why is clear: caramel is sticky, chewy, and made entirely of sugar. Suffice to say, it’s a dentist’s worst nightmare.

It takes a while for the mouth to break-down caramel which means the sticky substance sits on top of or in between the teeth, using its sugar molecules to seep into and damage the enamel. If caramel is one of your favorite sweet treats, you need to take brushing and flossing seriously. A poor brusher won’t remove all of the caramel residue, thus encouraging tooth decay. Caramel lovers may want to invest in an electric toothbrush and a hydro flosser.

Bread

Loaves of bread
Bread

Compared to the last four entries, this one might be a little surprising. After all, bread doesn’t contain sticky acids or sweet sugars, right?

Bread may not taste sweet but it actually does contain sugar — or, at least it does after you chew it. The enzymes in bread break down while you’re eating it, becoming sugars. Because bread is squishy and soft, those sugars can find the tiny crevices in your teeth. Once they get in those crevices, it’s hard to get them out.

When you do eat bread, it’s best to stick to the whole-grain variety. The seeds and nuts in whole-grain bread keep sugars from getting stuck in between or on your teeth.

Ice

Ice cubes in a cup with red liquid
Ice

Ice is great — if you leave it in your glass. If you chew your ice, you risk chipping the enamel on your teeth. Ice is too hard a substance for your teeth to break down easily and effectively.

For most of the foods on this list, we recommend eating in moderation and brushing afterward. However, for ice, we only have one thing to say: break the habit or break your teeth.

Pickles

A jar of pickles on a kitchen counter
Pickles

Vinegar gives pickles their signature sour taste, their long shelf-life, and, unfortunately, a handful of harmful acids. Pickles aren’t sticky or soft so they don’t get caught in between teeth like acidic candy but their vinegar soak is enough to do some damage to tooth enamel — especially if you eat them more than once a day.

As with citrus fruits, drinking a glass of water after eating pickles will help wash away any leftover acids.

Pasta

Three plates of pasta sitting on a table
Pasta

Pasta, like bread, breaks down in the mouth, becoming glucose molecules that attack the enamel. Because pasta is soft, it becomes stuck in the cracks and crevices of your teeth, wrecking dental havoc all day long. Brushing after eating pasta is the best way to ensure clean, healthy teeth.

Chips

Potato chips sitting in a bowl
Chips

Potato chips are starchy — which is never a good thing when it comes to your teeth. The bacteria in plaque break down starch, making it into an acid that attacks tooth enamel. The effect of starch on enamel usually lasts around twenty minutes but it can be longer if you’re prone to snacking. Try to eat starchy foods only at mealtime — and always brush afterward.

Soda

bottle of soda being poured into a cup
Soda

We hope soda being bad for your teeth doesn’t come as a huge surprise to most of you! Soda has a ton of sugar in it that, when combined with the natural bacteria in your mouth, becomes acid that eats away at tooth enamel. Kids and teens have developing tooth enamel so soda is especially harmful to their teeth. Like all the best things in life, it’s best to keep your children (and your own) soda intake within moderation.

The Best Foods For Your Teeth

Cheese

Blocks of cheese sitting on a table
Cheese

Wine may be bad for your teeth but (thankfully!) cheese is not. Like your bones, your teeth need calcium for strength and cheese is a great way to get that needed boost. Cheese also contains important phosphates that can help balance the pH in your mouth. Balanced pH means reduced acid levels and fewer cavities!

Spinach

Spinach leaves
Spinach

Spinach is good for your entire body — including your teeth. Although some people report feeling a strange film over their teeth after eating spinach, the leafy vegetable doesn’t damage your enamel. Just the opposite, actually — it helps repair it. Spinach contains calcium which helps strengthen enamel and bone.

When that calcium mixes with another compound in spinach called oxalic acid, it creates very tiny crystals that may feel a little strange on your teeth. Rest assured, those crystals mean the calcium is getting where it needs to go: your tooth enamel.

Strawberries

Strawberries sitting in baskets
Strawberries

Strawberry flavored candy may stain your teeth but real strawberries can actually work as a natural whitener. Strawberries contain malic acid which can help whiten enamel. While not as effective as in-office whitening treatments, regularly eating strawberries can see a gradual shade change. Just be wary of strawberries tiny seeds; try to floss after eating them.

Celery

stalks of celery
Celery

Celery is a neutral vegetable in that it contains pretty much nothing. Because of this, its biggest pro isn’t about nutrients or vitamins — it’s about chewing. Celery is famously difficult to chew and digest (it actually burns calories in the stomach).

While this doesn’t always make it an easy or enjoyable snack for some people, your teeth love it. Celery does an excellent job of cleaning your teeth as you chew it. Grabbing a piece of celery after eating something gummy or sweet will help prevent tooth decay until you can get to some toothpaste.

Fish

sushi and fish sitting on a plate
Fish

Most acids are bad for your teeth but, as in the case of fish, acids can sometimes be a good thing. Fish contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids which help prevent the painful symptoms associated with gum disease. A lot of types of fish, including salmon, also contain vitamin D — the vitamin responsible for helping with calcium absorption.

Kale

Fresh kale resting on a table
Kale

Any leafy greens are good for your teeth but spinach and kale are the best because they contain folic acid which can improve both gum and teeth health. Although it may get stuck in between your teeth, kale doesn’t have the harmful side-effects of bread or caramel. Instead, it gives your mouth a much-needed vitamin bath that effectively washes away the bacteria and acids left by more damaging foods.

Water

a cup of water resting on a table
Water

The best thing you can do for your teeth (beyond brushing and flossing) is to drink lots of water. If you can’t live without gummy candy or wine, try increasing your daily water intake. After each meal, drink a full glass of water to help wash away all the acids and sugars left from the food.

The additional water will also help raise your saliva production, helping to fight cavities throughout the day. Having a dry mouth is a big cause of cavities so try to keep a bottle of water handy whenever possible.

Coconut Oil

coconuts that have been cut in half
Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has gotten a lot of attention in the past few years — and for good reason! It has numerous unique health benefits thanks to its high amount of lauric acid — a rare acid that does a particularly good job killing bacteria. In fact, no other edible substance on earth has as much lauric acid as coconut oil does. It truly is a miracle oil.

Incorporating coconut oil into your daily life is easy — especially when it comes to your teeth. Before you brush your teeth, put a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth, swish it around for about fifteen minutes and spit it out. The lauric acid kills the bacteria that causes both gum disease and tooth decay. While this miracle oil won’t reverse any cavities, it can go a long way in preventing future oral infections.

Apples

bunches of red apples
Apples

Apples might seem like a surprising food to be on the “good” list — after all, they feel and taste pretty acidic and sweet. While they do contain sugars and acids, these particular sugars and acids actually help restore enamel instead of breaking it down.

The heavy chewing-workout that apples require amps up saliva production, which helps prevent tooth decay. As it turns out, an apple a day can keep both the doctor and the dentist away.

Eggs

brown eggs sitting in an egg carton
Eggs

Eggs are a great and easy source of protein, vitamin D, and phosphates — all of which are essential to your oral health. Without vitamin D, your teeth can’t absorb calcium and without calcium, your teeth can become weak and fragile. Including eggs in your morning breakfast routine will give your teeth that perfect nutritious boost.

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