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The Worst Foods for Your Teeth

The average American has three decayed teeth by age 17, in large part due to eating sugary foods. The sticky plaque on your gums and teeth that causes decay is a magnet for sugar. The bacteria in plaque turn sugar into acids that are powerful enough to dissolve the hard enamel that covers your teeth. That's how cavities get started. If you don't eat much sugar, the bacteria can't produce as much of the acid that eats away enamel.1, 2

Major Offenders

Stay away from these sweet culprits to reduce harmful acids that destroy your teeth:

  • Sugary candies and sweets that stick in your mouth: If you eat sweets, go for those that clear out of your mouth quickly.1 So thumbs down for lollipops, caramels, jelly beans, and cough drops that contain refined sugar.

  • Starchy carbohydrates that can get stuck in your teeth: Cooked starches, which are simple carbohydrates, can also linger in your mouth.

  • Carbonated soft drinks: Besides being laden with sugar, most soft drinks contain phosphoric and citric acids that erode tooth enamel.3

  • Fruit juice: Go for the whole fruits with lots of fiber and less sugar. Juices sometimes have added sugar, so they are more damaging to your teeth than the natural sugar in whole fruits.3

If you eat sweets, it's best to eat them as dessert after a main meal instead of several times a day between meals. Whenever you eat sweets—in any meal or snack—brush your teeth well with a fluoride toothpaste afterward.1

1 “Snack Smart for Healthy Teeth.” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Accessed 2010.

2 “What is Tooth Decay.” Know Your Teeth, Academy of General Dentistry.  Accessed 2010.

3 “ABCs of Oral Health: Nutrition.” Know Your Teeth, Academy of General Dentistry. Accessed 2010.

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