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9 foods to follow with a toothbrush (including some that might surprise you)

July 13, 2022
Most people know that foods like sticky candies aren't good for their teeth. But there are some things you might be eating (or drinking) that you don't know could be causing damage to your teeth and health.

When it’s time for a sugary snack, the last thing most of us think about is our teeth. But after the sweet satisfaction, you might wonder just what the sugar on your teeth is doing to the enamel until your next brush. Here are nine of  common foods that after eating or drinking, you’ll want to brush soon—but not sooner than 30 minutes. The foods soften the enamel and if you brush before it's remineralized, you take off a little bit of enamel, too.

1. Coffee

Let's talk about coffee first. Coffee is not as bad on teeth when you drink it straight. However, once you add cream and sugar, it starts to get unhealthy. While coffee can stain your teeth, it won’t be a significant cause of tooth decay until it’s sweetened.

Try challenging yourself to take your coffee as black as you can still enjoy it. If you can get to the point of actually enjoying black coffee, you’ll have a way to cut a ton of sugar from your diet. Your teeth will thank you.

2. White bread

White bread is another food that’s unexpectedly bad for teeth if eaten often. This is due to the sticky nature of the bread that, like many starchy foods, will turn into a paste. The paste that it creates has a tendency to linger within the spaces of teeth and on the gums. It's best to brush your teeth after eating white bread to remove the residue.

3. Sticky candy

Sometimes sweet food or candy cravings can get out of hand. It’s common to bite down on cake, ice cream, or cookies to satisfy a sweet tooth. These types of foods can be good for the taste but bad for teeth as time passes. Candy and treats that easily wash off the teeth, like chocolate, are better. When the candy is more taffy-like or chewy, it gets tricky. These types of sweets are harder to break down, which leaves them sitting on and in between teeth, causing cavities. These types of candies should be avoided.

4. Dried fruits

Fresh fruit is full of water, which makes it less likely to stick to teeth—at least compared with dried fruits. Being dried out concentrates the sugary juices and pulp, which can make it stickier and more likely to wedge into the teeth.

5. Popcorn

It might be hard to make a trip to the movies without this favorite snack for the silver screen, but popcorn can be bad for your teeth. The shell of popped kernels can get stuck between teeth, causing discomfort and pain. Popcorn also creates an acid inside of the mouth called lactic acid, which can wear on tooth enamel. It’s also full of butter, salt, and sugar, which can cause tooth decay. It’s best to brush and floss soon after chowing down on your favorite movie treat.

6. Pasta sauce

Pasta or marinara sauce is great for spaghetti, baked ziti, and most other pasta-based dishes—but for your teeth, not so much. The tomatoes in the pasta are healthy, but the sauce is filled with acidic qualities, which can wear away at enamel until your next tooth brushing.

7. Starchy foods

Starchy foods such as crackers and potato chips are also bad for the health of teeth. Such foods get sticky once they’re chewed. This causes the food to stick to gums and in between teeth until brushed or flossed away.

8. Soda

Soda is high in acid and sugar, which can cause the tooth enamel to decay. Sodas also cause a drop or decrease in oral pH. The main sodas to avoid are diet sodas since they’re made with more acid than regular soft drinks. Following each cup or serving of soda with water can reduce the effects of the fizzy drink that causes enamel decay. This will help neutralize the acidic chemicals so they won’t have such a harsh effect.

9. Alcohol

Alcohol dries out the mouth. When your mouth is dry, it’s hard to produce saliva. This causes teeth to slowly experience decay since saliva helps to kill bacteria and remineralize teeth. Many types of alcohol also have more sugar than you’d expect.

6 reasons for dry mouth

Also bad for your teeth: Ice

You read right. Ice is another "food" that can be bad for your teeth. Many people eat ice as a way to stay hydrated and to prevent dry mouth. Others actually develop addictions to crunching on ice since the feeling can be satisfying. Either way, ice can crack or break parts of your teeth if eaten regularly, over time. In turn, teeth can also become more sensitive, preventing you from eating other foods without causing discomfort.

Look for healthy options

Although there are many foods that can be bad for your teeth, there also many foods that are healthy. Foods such as cheese, celery, and yogurt are better choices. Cheese has calcium that is good for healthy bone density and can help balance oral pH. Celery is full of water, which will help wash your teeth as you chew, and yogurt has calcium and other probiotics that protect against cavities.

Maintaining great oral health and a great-looking set of teeth is all about making great choices as often as you can. Be diligent about flossing and brushing after meals and snack time. Also, chewing gum between meals is good for your teeth, as long as it's the right kind—sugar-free.