11 Foods That Are Hurting Your Teeth

The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry estimates that Americans spend $2.75 billion annually on cosmetic dentistry, but how many people actually know how to protect their investment?

Did your parents ever warn you about eating taffy or candy apples, describing in lurid terms what those foods might do to your fillings? Those sticky candies aren't the only things that are ruining your beautiful smile and causing you to spend more time in a dentist chair. There's a long list of foods that aren't good for your teeth, and some of them might surprise you.


11 Foods That Are Hurting Your Teeth

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What's the harm in something that's made of water? Plenty, when it comes to the health of your enamel. The cold, hard consistency of ice can strip teeth of enamel, making them vulnerable to bacteria that cause cavities. Crunching on ice has also been known to chip teeth and crack fillings. Leave the ice in the glass — avoid the temptation to bite down on it.

Bad Carbohydrates

Your fitness guru will tell you that if you want a slim physique, you need to eat more fiber and protein and fewer carbohydrates. The reason for this is that when your body breaks carbohydrates down, they become sugar. And it's not just kids who love sugar: The bacteria that cause tooth decay love it, too. As these bacteria break down sugars, they produce an acid that wears away at your teeth and causes decay. If you eat a lot of carbs, don't let them sit in the recesses of your teeth. In fact, it's best to cut back on processed carbohydrates altogether.

Citrus Fruits

Vitamin C is great for keeping colds at bay, but the citric acid in these fruits wears away enamel. Citrus fruits include oranges and grapefruits. Surprisingly, berries contain a notable amount of citric acid as well. The worst offenders, however, are the things we add to water — lemon and limes. Their citric acid content is significant.

If you think brushing immediately after eating these foods will help mitigate the effects of the acid, think again: You could be spreading the acid around your teeth. Instead, rinse with water after eating citrus fruits.

Sour Foods

While we're talking about acid, it's important to understand that anything sour contains acid. This includes not only citrus fruits but also sour candy (even if it has a sweet finish), some soups, sauerkraut, and buttermilk. Don't leave anything sour on your teeth; wash it away with a water rinse during and after eating.


The fact that coffee isn't great for your teeth probably doesn't surprise anyone, but you might be unaware of why that is. Certainly coffee stains teeth, but that's not why your dentist tells you to limit your consumption — after all, there are cosmetic whitening treatments for that. The sugar most people place in their coffee and tea is one of the culprits. Sugar feeds cavity-causing bacteria, and there's no reason to invite that.

In addition, the caffeine in coffee dries out the mouth. (For the same reason, you'll also want to avoid energy drinks.) This is bad because saliva prevents tooth decay by controlling bacteria. Without it, things get unbalanced, and your teeth become more likely to develop a host of problems. Finally, most coffee is quite acidic, especially when consumed in large amounts. It's best to get more sleep instead of depending on caffeine to stay awake when you're tired.


Another cause of dry mouth is alcohol. Excessive drinking reduces saliva production over time. Reduced saliva impairs the beginning stages of digestion, eventually leading to tooth decay when sugars are not swept away and food bits remain sandwiched between teeth and gums. Moreover, some alcohol, like red wine, is also known for staining your pearly whites.

Sticky Foods

Most people think of taffy and caramel when they think of sticky foods, but several noncandy foods also fall into this category. Dried fruits (which are also particularly high in sugar), sticky sauces, and fruit leather can do a number on your smile because the sugar present, even if it's minimal, stays on your teeth and feeds the decay-causing bacteria that form dental plaque. If you're a big fan of these food items, make sure to brush your teeth or rinse with water after eating.


No surprise to see this one on the list. From its high sugar and caffeine content to its added color, soda won't set you on the road to a healthy, happy smile. Some people consume diet soda to cut back on sugar consumption, but from an oral perspective, diet soda isn't much better: It contains high amounts of acid, which causes enamel erosion. Stick with water when possible.


Kombucha, a fermented tea drink, has gotten a lot of press lately for its health benefits. One thing it doesn't benefit, though, is your teeth. Yes, its sugar content is generally low, but like most fermented beverages, kombucha is high in acid. Acid wears away enamel, causing a variety of problems for your teeth. Since kombucha's health benefits are still widely debated, drink only in moderation.

Crimson Foods

Red foods aren't to blame for all the ills that can beset a smile, but hyperpigmented foods certainly will stain your teeth. These foods include things like beets, berries, curry, soy sauce (surprising, huh?), and tomato sauce. If a food will stain a white T-shirt, it will stain your teeth, too. The best way to avoid staining your teeth is to keep such foods away from your teeth by using a straw or else rinsing them away during and after eating.

Stomach Acid

This last item isn't a food you eat; it's every food you eat. When food reenters the mouth after being partially digested (whether as a result of bulimia or a bad case of acid reflux), it brings stomach acid with it, and that acid wears away your enamel. If you're having trouble with acid reflux, seek medical help before your digestive problem becomes an oral problem, too. 

If you take good care of your teeth, you'll have a healthier smile, less discomfort, and longer-lasting teeth overall. While it's hard to completely avoid these foods, limiting your intake and rinsing or brushing after consumption will help you keep your teeth looking and feeling their best.

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