The Best (And The Worst) Foods For Your Teeth

Brush twice a day, forget about the candy, and coffee will stain your teeth are only a few of the cautionary tips we’re given regarding our oral health. It can be pretty tricky to keep up with the best practices for our pearly whites. There are many food and drink products around that can cause damage, so it’s smart to stay in the know about which things are healthy for our smiles. Continue reading to learn the best and worst foods (and liquids) for our teeth.

Worst: Ditch The Ice

man in ice
HERBERT NEUBAUER/AFP via Getty Images
HERBERT NEUBAUER/AFP via Getty Images

According to orthodontist Janice Yannl, “chewing on hard substances can damage enamel and leave your teeth vulnerable to a dental emergency.” Yes, that applies to ice, no matter if it’s made of water and lacks sugary additives.

No matter how addicting it can be, you need to stay away from chewing on ice. “You’d be surprised at how many people think ice is good for their teeth,” Yannl says. Let it cool your beverage, not destroy your teeth.

Worst: No More Sour Candy

candy that is sour
Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

When you think of cavities, surely candy comes to mind. One of the first things you learn about your precious teeth is that the sweet sugary stuff will keep you in the dentist’s office. The sour type is the worst.

“Any type of sour candy has an extremely high acidic content, which can break down tooth enamel,” says Timothy Chase, Doctor of Dental Medicine. Also, if you think that brushing right after consuming will help, you might actually be making it worse. Chase adds that doing so “can then brush away the enamel that has started to break down on the surface of the teeth.”

Worst: For Your Teeth, Ditch The Adult Beverages

queen Elizabeth drinking
Yui Mok – WPA Pool/Getty Images
Yui Mok – WPA Pool/Getty Images

In case you didn’t know it, adult beverages are a great way to bring cavities into your life. It isn’t so much about the sugar, but the dry mouth that comes after sipping on your drink.

“People who drink excessively may find their saliva flow is reduced over time, which can lead to tooth decay and other oral infections such as gum disease,” says Dr. Yanni. Saliva helps with the digestion process and protects against infection and irritation.

Best: Got Milk?

milk drinker
Chad Buchanan/Getty Images
Chad Buchanan/Getty Images

Milk has long been known to do great things to our bodies. One of the main elements that makes it so helpful is that it contains high levels of calcium. Next to water, milk is the best thing you can consume for your teeth.

It lowers the acid levels in your mouth, and that helps with fighting tooth decay. It’s best to drink a glass after you’ve downed something high in sugars or other harmful substances.

Best: Chew Some Sugarless Gum

rihanna chewing gum
Noel Vasquez/Getty Images
Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

A great way to help protect your teeth is to ensure that you brush your teeth after eating. If you aren’t able to do so, you can always chew some gum, but make sure it’s sugarless.

When you chew this sticky substance, it helps boosts saliva secretion, which gets rid of some of the bacteria in your mouth. You must remember that the keyword here is sugarless, so keep that in mind. Don’t worry, there are lots of options that still taste great.

Worst: Cut Back On The Carbonation

soda
Roger Lemoyne /Getty Images
Roger Lemoyne /Getty Images

Bad news for all the soda lovers out there: soft drinks cause three times worth the problems for your teeth. Non-diet soda gives your pearly whites a bath of sugar, allowing bacteria to thrive.

Also, all the acid in Sprite and Coke is detrimental to your enamel. And lastly, drinking dark carbonated drinks effectively gets rid of your white smile. “Aside from the sugar content, dark-colored soft drinks can stain or discolor the teeth,” says Dr. Chase.

Worst: Bread And Teeth Aren’t The Best Of Friends

young boy eating bread
Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

You might not think bread and candy fall in the same category, but they’re much closer than you realize. “Once you start chewing on [bread], the enzymes in your saliva break down the starches, which convert to sugar almost immediately,” according to dental tourism company, Dental Departures.

As you chew starches like white bread, they transform into a paste that stays between the teeth. That type of environment is perfect for cavity-causing bacteria. Other foods like pretzels and chips create a similar problem.

Best: Are You Craving Some Raisins?

a batch of raisins
Valery SharifulinTASS via Getty Images
Valery SharifulinTASS via Getty Images

One of the best features of raisins is that they are naturally sweet and lack any table sugar and sucrose. You don’t need to worry about bacteria sticking to the surface of your teeth, which extra sugar helps to do.

Christine D. Wu, a pediatric dentistry researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago, found that raisins also positively “affect the growth of bacteria associated with gum disease.” Oh, and they have the potential to kill cavity-causing plaque bacteria.

Best: There’s Nothing Wrong With Feeling Cheesy

cheese in Rome
Stefano Montesi/Corbis via Getty Images
Stefano Montesi/Corbis via Getty Images

Cheese is another dairy product that’s marvelous for your teeth. Much like milk, it’s high in calcium, and it also lowers the amounts of acid in your mouth (plaque hates this).

Another benefit is if you chew hard cheese, you increase the saliva production, washing away some bacteria in your mouth. One thing to keep in mind is that aged, hard cheeses are the options you want to aim for when eating this dairy product.

Worst: Those Pesky Dried Fruits

a spread of dried fruit
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

This one is tough because we’ve already included raisins, but think of those aged grapes as an exception to the rule. Dried fruits like prunes, apricots, and others are tough on your teeth. They tend to stick in the crevices, leaving behind loads of natural sugars.

“All fruit contains natural sugars, and once the water has been expunged, what’s left is highly concentrated with sugar, which is sticky and clings to teeth, trapping acid-producing bacteria,” explains Dental Departures.

Worst: All The Beets And Some Berries

young lady
a_dish_with_kfish/Instagram
a_dish_with_kfish/Instagram

“Any food that would stain a white t-shirt will also stain your teeth,” says Joseph Banker, DMD, dentist, and founder of Creative Dental Care in Westfield, New Jersey. That means any type of crimson beet and berry will leave unwanted color on your teeth.

As healthy as beets are, they sadly aren’t optimal for maintaining a bright smile. Banker recommends “rinsing your mouth directly after eating beets” to help save your precious teeth from permanent stains.

Worst: The Crunchy Goodness Of Potato Chips

man with potato chips
hummelwitness/Instagram
hummelwitness/Instagram

Some people can’t get enough of the satisfying crunch that potato chips provide. The various flavor options make chips some of the best snacks out there, but that all comes with a price for your teeth.

Chips have a load of starch in them that turns into sugar that gets trapped in your teeth and helps bacteria thrive in the plaque. Eating more than a few allows the acid production from the chips to last a while as well.

Best: Tea Will Do You Some Good

pouring some tea
Ryan Pyle/Corbis via Getty Images
Ryan Pyle/Corbis via Getty Images

Are you a tea or coffee person? If you said the former, than you might be helping your teeth. There’s a compound called polyphenols found in green and black tea that slow the growth of cavity and gum disease bacteria.

University of Illinois at Chicago researchers found that rinsing with black tea, rather than water, leads to less plaque buildup on your teeth. Also, the amount of plaque on your teeth gets reduced as well.

Best: Drink As Much Water As You Can

some water drinking
FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images
FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images

Water is practically a superhero to your teeth. The clear liquid helps to wash away food and keeps your saliva production well-tuned. That’s essential because saliva acts as your mouth’s greatest defense against tooth decay.

Water is so powerful because it contains plaque fighting minerals and it helps keep you hydrated, keeping the inside of your mouth moist. Not only is it healthy to drink at least six bottles of water a day, you’ll also help your teeth stay in tip-top shape.

Best: The Power Of Cranberries

lady holding a bunch of cranberries
TIMOTHY CLARY/AFP via Getty Images
TIMOTHY CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

Cranberries are treats that can help promote healthy teeth thanks to their polyphenols (the same thing found in tea). That means they assist with keeping plaque from sticking, which leads to a lower possibility of cavities.

That all sounds great, but with the fruit being so tart, there can be a lot of added sugars. That caveat may affect the overall benefits provided from the tiny fruit, says Wu. Be careful of which type you purchase when shopping at the store.

Worst: Those Darn Energy Drinks!

gatorade
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images for Gatorade
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images for Gatorade

While sports drinks help keep the young kids running around hydrated while they sweat, the liquid isn’t the best for your teeth. One reason is due to the high sugar content, which many of the brands have.

Even the American Academy of Pediatrics says sports drinks are “unnecessary in most cases.” Next time before sipping, check the label and see how much of the sweet stuff is inside of it. Water is always an alternative you can’t go wrong with.

Worst: The Citrus Did It

oranges in man's hands
Tom Stoddart/Getty Images
Tom Stoddart/Getty Images

As tasty and juicy as citrus fruits like oranges can be, they have their downfalls. Grapefruits, lemons, and other citrus-filled fruits and juices have a high vitamin C concentration, but the acid erodes enamel.

That makes teeth vulnerable to decay. Even the smallest of actions, such as squeezing lemon (or lime) in your water brings acid into the equation. The best way to get your antioxidants and vitamins is to drink and eat these things in moderation.

Worst: Please Don’t Say Coffee…

sipping coffee
Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images
Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

While coffee might be a life-saver when you’re drained, it can also be your worst enemy concerning your teeth. The caffeinated beverage severely stains your smile, and it’s one of the worst drinks for your teeth.

Things get worse when you add sugar to your cup of energy. Not only does coffee make your teeth sticky, but it dries out your mouth as well. All of this combined make coffee a hard no if you’re trying to keep your teeth as healthy as possible.

Best: Yogurt Does A Lot For You

lady eating yogurt
François DUCASSE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
François DUCASSE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

One of the best foods you can eat for your teeth is yogurt. The preferred kind is full fat or Greek, as this product provides an all-around impact on your smile.

Yogurt helps gums stay healthy, it strengthens teeth, it helps to balance the acids in the mouth and it also helps to fight bad breath,” Lifehack reported. “Basically, yogurt is a dental superfood!” Is that enough to convince you of the all-mighty power of yogurt?

Worst: Can’t Seem To Get Enough Pickles?

lady about to eat pickles
sparikos/Instagram
sparikos/Instagram

Pickles make a great addition to burgers, sandwiches, and many other meals, as they provide a subtle yet satisfying crunch. The bad thing about the green treat is that vinegar is essential in making them.

That liquid is a hazard to your tooth enamel. A 2004 study conducted on the habits of English teenagers found that pickles were the food “most closely linked with tooth wear.” Furthermore, eating them at a higher clip than one a day increased your chances of wear by nearly 85%!