The Worst Foods and Drinks for Your Teeth

Sugary foods — and in particular, those composed of sucrose, or table sugar — are especially bad for your teeth because harmful bacteria thrive on them, Dr. de Aguiar Ribeiro said. You can often find sucrose in many processed foods and sugary drinks like candy, pastries, fruit juice concentrates and sodas.

In addition, any foods that are sticky, gooey or chewy — like gummies, dried fruits, syrups and candies — get stuck in the nooks and crannies of your teeth and the spaces between them. When excess sugar lingers on your teeth, harmful bacteria can store it in their cells, “like a pantry inside of them,” Dr. de Aguiar Ribeiro said, and continue producing acid for hours after you’ve eaten.

Certain drinks — like sugary sodas, juices, energy drinks and milkshakes — are also heavy offenders. They wash your teeth in sticky and sugary solutions, and they’re acidic to boot. “Our teeth begin to break down when the acid level in the mouth dips below a pH of 5.5,” said Dr. Rocio Quinonez, a professor of pediatric dentistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and “sodas tend to have a pH around 3 to 4.”

Other carbonated beverages like seltzers are also acidic. So are coffees and alcoholic drinks which are often consumed with sugary syrups and mixers as well.

Some fresh fruits, vegetables or starchy foods — like citrus, potatoes, rice or even bananas — are often maligned as bad for your teeth because they may contain sugars or acids that can wear away at your teeth. But they also contain nutrients that will boost your overall health, which in turn can benefit your teeth, said Dr. Dorota Kopycka-Kedzierawski, a dentist at the University of Rochester Medical Center and a researcher in cariology, or the study of cavities and dental decay. Even if they are foods that are sugary or tend to get stuck in your teeth — that tradeoff may be worth it, she said.