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8 Foods that Damage Your Teeth

November 20, 2013

Filed under: Sage Blog — Tags: — Dr. Andrew Holecek @ 2:01 am

In addition to daily brushing and flossing, one of the best things you can do to keep you teeth healthy is to educate yourself on foods that damage your teeth.

You’ve been told since you were a kid that sugar is bad. But do most people think of bread, dried fruits, popcorn, or your child’s favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwich as being somehow hard on their teeth?

What Causes Damage to your Teeth?

There are two primary properties of food that cause problems for your teeth: sugar and acid.

Everyone’s teeth are covered with a sticky film of bacteria called plaque. Following a snack or meal that is full of either sugar or simple carbohydrates, the bacteria feed on them and release acids that attack tooth enamel.

Tooth enamel is the thin, hard, outer coating of your teeth. It is fraction of a millimeter thick and will not grow back once it’s chipped or eaten away by acid. You need to keep as much of your enamel as possible because it helps maintain the tooth’s structure and protects it from decay. Repeated attacks will cause the enamel to break down, eventually resulting in cavities.

Some foods are naturally acidic. Bacteria isn’t necessary for these foods to do damage to your teeth. The acid in these foods go directly at the enamel with the same result: cavities.

So What Foods Should I be Most Concerned About?

Long-lasting and Sticky Candies

We typically hold hard candies in our mouths for a while and sticky ones get stuck in between teeth and dissolve slowly.

It’s really best to simply avoid these altogether. And remember, most cough drops are made with a lot of sugar, so opt for sugarless ones.

Refined Carbohydrates

These are often the most favorite foods of young children and unfortunately, they are very hard on their teeth. White breads, crackers, potato chips, french fries, plain past;  these are all simple carbs that break down into sugars.

When these sugars mix with the bacteria found in everyone’s mouth, they ferment and create lactic acid, which is one of the acids very efficient at eroding your tooth enamel.

And soft white bread and rolls are the worst of the bunch because they are sticky and adhere easily to your teeth, giving more time for the acid to build.

Dried Fruits

Often raisins, dried apricots, fruit roll-ups are mistakenly believed to be wholesome and therefore better for teeth than candy.

The sugars in these fruits are highly concentrated by the drying and their chewy texture makes them stick to teeth, giving them plenty of time to do damage.

Acidic Foods

While citrus fruits are a healthy addition to your diet, they should be consumed as part of a meal and the mouth rinsed afterwards. Lemonade should be avoided as it is high in both sugar and acid.

Carbonated Soft Drinks

These are the primary source of sugar in the daily diets of teens and kids. A can or Pepsi or Coke has 35 grams or ten teaspoons of sugar.

What many people don’t know is diet soft drinks have their own problems and are not teeth friendly. They are loaded with phosphoric and citric acid.

Sports Drinks, Energy Drinks & Vitamin Waters

A recent study published in the May/June 2012 issue of General Dentistry found that the recent significant increase in the consumption of sports and energy drinks, especially among adolescents, is causing irreversible damage to teeth. Sports drinks are acidic and full of sugar.

The researchers found that damage to enamel was evident after only five days of exposure to the drinks, although energy drinks showed an even greater potential to damage teeth than sports drinks. Vitamin waters aren’t harmless either. They can contain as much sugar as a candy bar.


There are a few reasons that this food, which is often thought to be healthy is very hard on your teeth. Popcorn is really good at creating lactic acid in your mouth.  Long before the movie is over, the acid has begun its work on your teeth. Be prepared: bring water, a toothpick and some sugar free gum to the theater to mimimize the bad effects of that beloved popcorn on your teeth.

It’s almost impossible to eat popcorn without getting some of it stuck in your teeth.  Hopefully with a good flossing, you will be able to get those thin husks out from between your back teeth. Unfortunately, if it does stay in there, it can lead to infection and even an abscess.

Also, those un-popped kernels are excellent for breaking and cracking teeth. Be careful as you munch down on a big handful, especially if it is at the bottom of the bag- cracked teeth usually equals a crown which equals a pretty big dental bill.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches

Most peanut butters are made with a lot of sugar, which feeds the acid causing bacteria. But the “stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth” texture makes peanut butter great at adhering to your teeth and gives the sugar lots of time to do it’s damage. Try to find natural peanut butters with no added sugars to minimize the problem.

The jelly in your P.B & J is no less of a problem. We find the same thing with here;,full of sugar and pretty sticky, particularly when combined with peanut butter. Send Johnny to school with a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread instead.

Time is Important

Have you ever been watching a football game when the quarterback is being given so much pass protection that a fan from the opposing team, sensing the danger yells, “Too much time!”? Well, the food in your mouth is just like the quarterback. The longer you give it to inflict some damage, the more likely it will be successful in doing so.

If you’re not able to brush after you eat, either rinsing your mouth with warm water or chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after a meal will help remove food particles and bacteria from your teeth.

Knowledge is Prevention

At Sage Dental, we focus on prevention. We consider it our job to help you understand all of the ways that you can protect your teeth and your smile. We take the time to answer your questions. Contact us today for an appointment. We look forward to seeing you!

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