7 Foods That Are Bad for Your Teeth, According to My Dentist

Acidic salad dressings are among the foods that are bad for your teeth.

It’s been drilled into your head that candy and soda are terrible for your teeth — probably since kindergarten. And while it’s a good idea to stay away from consuming excess sugar for a variety of health reasons, there are other — perhaps more surprising — foods and eating habits that damage your teeth.

Basically, the “worst food list” falls into two categories: foods that are acidic and foods that stick to your teeth.

Both can wear away your protective tooth enamel, which leaves you more vulnerable to cavities and infections, per the American Dental Association. It can also make your teeth appear more yellow and feel more sensitive.

The good news is that just because they’re bad for your teeth doesn’t mean you have to avoid them completely. In fact, many of the foods on this list are really good for you, and you should keep them in your diet. Just tweak how you eat or drink them and you’re good to go.

1. Some Salad Dressings

If you’re spritzing your greens with a dressing that contains an acid, you’ll want to be cautious with your chompers.

Uncooked acids can wear down your enamel. and most good dressings contain some sort of acid, like fresh lemon juice or vinegar.

2. Crackers, Chips and Other Carb-y Foods

This group fits squarely into the bucket of “foods that stick to your teeth.” They may be tasty, but they’re not doing your mouth any favors.

Carbohydrates stick to your teeth and break down into sugar. The result is a party for the bacteria in your mouth that leads to cavities. That’s the reason high-sugar sticky foods like candy and cookies can also do a number on your teeth.

3. Foods That Cause Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is, as you might guess from its name, not kind to your teeth. That’s thanks to the repetitive exposure to stomach acid bubbling up into the mouth.

In one October 2017 study in BMC Gastroenterology, 60 percent of people who had dental erosion also had gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). (There’s some good news, though: The study concluded that being treated for GERD stopped this damage to tooth enamel.)

4. Lemon Water

Lemon water is so good for your body, but it’s the most horrendous thing for your teeth. That’s because the lemon makes it an acidic drink, and sipping it throughout the day bathes your teeth continuously in the lemon’s acids.

The fix: Don’t let it touch your teeth — drink it through a straw.

5. Citrus Fruits

Oranges and grapefruit may be perfect for breakfast or a midday snack, but just like lemons, they’re…ding, ding, ding…acidic.

6. Flavored Sparkling Waters

If you’re a sparkling water die-hard, check the label. Your favorite seltzer may contain added fruit juice, sugar, natural flavors or citric acids.

These flavors are what may erode your enamel — especially if you’re drinking several throughout the day.

The fix: Take a plain sparkling water and add a couple shakes of bitters to the mix. It’s also the perfect end-of-day mocktail when it’s a booze-free day or you’re living that sober-curious lifestyle.

7. All Day Grazing

OK, this one’s not a food, but more of an eating habit. After you eat, the pH of your mouth drops (lower pH is a more acidic environment), and it takes 20 minutes after you finish eating for that pH to rise and your mouth to equalize.

If you’re snacking all day, your mouth is more acidic, and you’re more prone to cavities.

So, What do You Eat for Healthy Teeth

In general, the best diet for your smile is one that’s been found to be best for your health, per a 2019 research review in Caries Research:

  • Limit added sugars, saturated fat and salt
  • Eat more fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, legumes, fish and lean meat
  • Drink lots of water

Bon appétit for your teeth!

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