Do you want to have healthy teeth and gums for your entire life? Achieving this goal starts with avoiding foods that contribute to cavities and gum disease. In today’s post, we’ll talk about the worst foods for oral health, why they’re so damaging, and share some tips for choosing healthy snacks, too.

What Do Foods to Avoid Have in Common?

Before we start listing some of the foods to avoid if you want to achieve good oral health and avoid cavities and gum disease, let’s look at some guidelines to help you. You should avoid foods that are:

  • Sugary
  • Acidic
  • Sticky
  • Extremely Hard
  • Highly-Processed

Why avoid sugary, acidic, and highly processed foods? Sugar provides food to the bacteria that live in your mouth. The more food they have to eat, the faster they will grow and reproduce. As they feed on sugar, they produce acid which can damage your tooth enamel and lead to cavities.

Acidic foods and drinks can contribute to dental health problems because, just like the acid produced by bacteria, they can damage tooth enamel and dissolve the teeth, leading to cavities.

Foods that are sticky or chewy are harder to remove from your teeth. They provide a long lasting food source for bacteria and can really contribute to gum disease and tooth decay.

Hard, crunchy foods, or foods that contain hidden hard pits are especially dangerous to teeth. It’s very easy to bite down too hard and chip, crack, or break a tooth. Damaged teeth can act as a gateway that allows bacteria to enter the inner layers of your teeth, causing gum disease.

Highly-processed foods are often high in sugar, low in fiber, and don’t offer much nutrition value. It’s best to avoid them all together for the sake of your dental health and whole-body wellness.

Soda and Cola Drinks

soda and cola drinks are bad for your health
Risk Factors: Sugary, Acidic, Highly-Processed

Soda and cola are among the WORST foods for your teeth and your body. Soda is incredibly sugary and HIGHLY acidic. This combination can lead to serious tooth decay and cavities.

Don’t be fooled by sugar-free and diet sodas. These drinks are still very acidic and research shows that artificial sweeteners aren’t as healthy as you might think.

Candy

sugary candy is bad for your oral health
Risk Factors: Sugary, Sticky, Hard, Highly-Processed

There are hundreds of different types of candy and NONE of them are good for your teeth. Candy is sugary, sticky, chewy, crunchy, and highly processed. Biting on hard candies is a common cause of broken and damaged teeth. Sticky candies, like caramels, are tough to brush off of your teeth and give bacteria the sugar they need to thrive.

Dried Fruit

Risk Factors: Sugary, Sticky

For years, many people considered raisins a “healthy” snack. Today we know that’s not necessarily the case, especially when it comes to your dental health. Raisins are very sugary and very sticky, a dangerous combo and a food that creates the perfect environment for cavities and decay to form.

Plus since raisins are so small, it’s easy to overindulge!

Fruit Juices & Canned Fruit

sugary fruit juices and canned fruit are not good for your oral health
Risk Factors: Sugary, Acidic, Highly-Processed

Fruit juice (like apple juice) was long thought to be a good alternative to soda. But just like raisins, nothing could be further from the tooth– oops I mean truth!

Fruit juices are highly processed (many even have added sugar!) and remove the fibrous peel from the fruit, one of the most nutritious parts! Fruit juices are acidic, too. This combination of too sugary, too acidic, and too processed makes fruit juices a food to avoid if you want to prevent cavities and gum disease.

Canned fruit, like those little snack cups you might put in your lunch or buy from a vending machine, should also be avoided. They’re often packed in heavy cavity-causing sugary syrup.

When it comes to fruits, just eat the real thing!

Lemon Juice & Apple Cider Vinegar

Risk Factors: Acidic

Are you drinking lemon juice or apple cider vinegar for the health benefits? You might be surprised to learn that the acid found in these beverages can be very damaging to your dental health, causing teeth to dissolve and cavities to form!

Gatorade & Sports Drinks

Risk Factors: Sugary, Highly-Processed

For decades, sports drinks like Gatorade were marketed as a great drink for athletes looking to perform their best. And while it’s true that electrolytes and carbs aid in athletic performance, sports drinks are too sugary and too processed to be good for your teeth!

Sweetened Coffee Drinks

sweetened coffee drinks are not good for your oral health
Risk Factors: Sugary, Acidic, Sticky, Highly-Processed

Coffee drinks, especially those with added sugar are particularly bad for your teeth and gums. They’re very processed, very sweet, and also very acidic. In some cases these drinks may have more sugar than a comparable amount of soda!

In addition to contributing to the formation of cavities, coffee drinks can stain teeth, too.

Dairy Products

Risk Factors: Sugary, Highly-Processed

Dairy products like milk and cheese can be a breeding ground for bacteria in your mouth. Lactose, the main carbohydrate in milk products, may not taste as sweet to you, but oral bacteria love it! Many yogurts contain added sugar!

Did you know? Goat’s milk is great! If you can find it, unpasteurized is best.

What Should You Eat and Drink?

vegetables and nuts are great for your oral health
So if these are among the worst foods for your dental health, what foods should you eat and what beverages should you reach for? Let’s look at my list of great foods that you can enjoy guilt-free:

  • Almonds, Pecans, and Cashews – Nuts are high in protein and make a great snack
  • Leafy greens – Kale, collards, spinach are all nutritious and filling
  • Unsweetened Tea and Coffee – When enjoying iced tea or coffee in the summer, use a straw to sip. This helps minimize stains on your teeth!
  • Whole Fruit – Apples, pineapples, melons, and pears are all fibrous fruits that make a great snack
  • Tomatoes and Carrots – Rich in antioxidants and vitamins
  • Chicken, Tofu, and Tempeh – Great low-fat protein sources

Be sure to check out my list of top restaurants in San Francisco that are great for your teeth! 

Take Control of Your Dental Health

Dr. Nammy Patel from Green Dentistry San Francisco

Visit Dr. Patel at Green Dentistry to talk more about how you can minimize your risk of tooth decay, cavities, gum disease and other health problems. At Green Dentistry, our holistic approach to dentistry is designed to help keep your teeth healthy for life!