9 Foods and Drinks That Are Good (and Bad) for Your Teeth

Knights Family Dentistry Guide to How Your Diet Affects Your Teeth
The acid in citrus fruit can be harmful to your teeth’s enamel, and one study found lemons and grapefruit to be the worst. azgek / 123RF

What You Eat and Drink Is Critical to Dental Health

Good dental hygiene involves more than brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing, and seeing your dentist on a regular basis. It also involves being careful about what you eat and drink, since some foods and beverages are good for your teeth, while others are decidedly not.

Foods and Drinks That Make Your Teeth Stronger

Foods and drinks that are rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly calcium and phosphorus, help keep teeth strong and healthy. These foods and drinks include:

  • Water, which helps wash destructive sugars and acids off your teeth. And, most tap water and some bottled spring waters contain fluoride, a mineral that protects teeth against decay.
  • Dairy products, which are a primary dietary source of calcium, a mineral essential for healthy teeth. Dairy products also contain casein, a type of protein that helps stabilize and repair tooth enamel.
  • Foods rich in fiber, which support healthy digestion and cholesterol levels. They also require a great deal of chewing, which generates saliva production and allows the food to clean the teeth as it is broken up into small pieces.

Foods and Drinks That Can Harm Your Teeth

Some foods and drinks might be good for your body in some ways, but still may harm your teeth. These include:

  • Citrus fruits and juices, which are rich in vitamin C and other nutrients, are good for you in many ways, but they also are extremely acidic, meaning they can erode tooth enamel. Grapefruit and lemon juice have been found to cause the most damage, and orange juice the least among the fruits studied.
  • Candy, which can be harmful, particularly if it is sticky, chewy, sugary, or acidic. Although sticky candy tends to be the worst, hard candy also is harmful since it dissolves slowly in the mouth and allows bacteria more time to multiply and produce harmful acid. Many varieties of candy are also flavored with citric acid, which further erodes tooth enamel.
  • Pickles, which have a sour, salty taste thanks to acid (typically vinegar). This makes them delicious but also damaging to tooth enamel. According to one study, eating pickles more than once a day increased the probability of tooth wear by 85 percent.
  • Carbonated soft drinks, which contain acids that have been found to harm teeth even more than the sugar in these beverages.
  • Sports and energy drinks, which might seem like a healthy alternative to soda, but also are very acidic. After soaking teeth in various drinks for a little over a day, University of Iowa researchers found that lemon-lime Gatorade caused the most enamel wear, followed by Red Bull.

Although these foods and drinks can be damaging to teeth when consumed regularly and in large amounts, it is not usually necessary to avoid them entirely. Snacking on pickles once in a while isn’t likely to dramatically affect the overall health of your teeth, and if you enjoy citrus fruits and juices, just make sure you brush your teeth soon after you consume them to remove the acid from your mouth. If you drink soda, try to have it during a meal rather than sipping on it throughout the day because the food you eat will help neutralize the acid in the drink.

To find out more about how what you eat and drink affects your dental health, contact Knights Family Dentistry.