The 5 Worst Supermarket Foods for Your Teeth

Believe it or not, the worst food for your teeth isn't candy! Most people are surprised that a food on this list is causing their cavities and tooth pain.

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Hi, I’m Dr. B, practicing functional dentist for 35 years. I graduated from the Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco, CA in 1987 and am a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM), Academy of General Dentistry (Chicago, IL), American Academy for Oral Systemic Health (AAOSH), and Dental Board of California. I'm on a mission to empower people everywhere with the same evidence-based, easy-to-understand dental health advice that my patients get. Learn more about Dr. B

One of the stereotypes of dentists is that we don’t want you to eat sugar or candy. But there are so many more foods that are even worse for your teeth, many of which are even disguised as health foods or, even more damaging, food for children.

Did you know that it’s not just candy that you should be avoiding? Candy doesn’t wholly deserve its reputation for making your teeth rot. I give each and every one of my patients a small square of organic dark chocolate (70% cocoa) in their goody bag of floss and a toothbrush. This chocolate “candy” is actually one of the foods I recommend for a healthy mouth and teeth.

There’s no better way to keep your teeth looking younger for for the rest of your life than to keep these foods out of your shopping cart and away from your teeth.

1. Saltine Crackers

Pop quiz: What is the #1 most cavity-causing (cariogenic) food there is? Answer: Saltine crackers. Seriously, this stuff is worse than candy.

Saltine crackers are a simple starch, meaning they convert to sugar almost immediately. Anytime you feed the bacteria in your mouth simple sugars, they multiply and “poop” in your mouth – and this is a major cause of bad breath. Simple starches are a bacteria’s favorite!

2. Goldfish Crackers

Goldfish crackers wreak havoc on your mouth for the same reason as above. The other problem with these starchy foods is that they stick to your teeth long after you’ve finished your snack. These crackers get stuck in the crevices in teeth more easily than other more complex foods, meaning the bacteria get fed all day until you floss and brush

This is why I don’t recommend Goldfish, or any kind of white cracker, as healthy snacks for kids. My recommendation for parents who need healthy snacks on the go for their kids are almonds, baby carrots, apple wedges with almond butter, cheese squares, and squares of dark chocolate. These are all complex carbs that take a long time to digest and won’t wreak havoc on the developing teeth.

3. Diet Coke

Just because your soda is sugar-free doesn’t mean it’s not destroying your teeth. The acid in soda wears away tooth enamel. If you ever want to see this in action, just pop a penny into a glass of soda and watch the coin slowly erode over a few days.

Limit soda from your diet as much as possible and, when you do decide to indulge, rinse your teeth with a glass of water (don’t brush!) afterward to rinse away some of the acid. This won’t reverse the effects, but it helps to minimize them.

4. Red Bull

Energy drinks and sports drinks including Vitamin Water, Gatorade, and Red Bull are all very acidic, which has a corrosive effect on the teeth. A study published in General Dentistry tested the acidity levels in sports and energy drinks and energy drinks by bathing human tooth enamel into each beverage for 15 minutes.

Guess how long it took for some of those tooth enamel samples to show signs of tooth decay? Just five days! Energy drinks caused double the damage that sports drinks did.

5. Dried Fruits

Dried apricots, dried plums, etc. are considered health foods, but you’re better off with the actual fruit in its original, not dried, form.

Once a fruit is dried, all the water is taken out, so the naturally present sugars become extremely concentrated. This means that dried fruits act like a sticky caramel in your mouth. Their gumminess clings to teeth just like candy and traps cavity-causing bacteria and sugars on the teeth.

Mark Burhenne DDS

For my list of the best foods for your teeth, click here.

Learn More: Foods to Eat—And Foods to Avoid—to Heal Cavities Naturally