Do you know which food and drinks will rot your teeth and those that love your teeth?

There’s some food and drinks that are bad for your dental health – most of them won’t come as a surprise. But, there’s good foods too so don’t be disheartened.

We all know that lollies are not good for your teeth. And no-one would be shocked to learn that sugary drinks should be avoided too. There’s a few surprises on the list of good and bad foods for your teeth.

Ditch the high sugar content

Sugar is enemy number one. When you eat or drink anything with sugar, the bacteria in your mouth converts it to acid. It’s actually the acid that’s the biggest offender. The acid eats your tooth enamel which causes tooth decay.

The fact is, there’s sugar in many foods and drinks these days – it’s impossible to avoid it. And, acids themselves can be found in some food and drinks.

It’s not all bad news for food.

You can still enjoy delicious foods! Not only are these foods good for your health but they give you minerals and vitamins to get your saliva flowing and help to repair tooth enamel. Some of the good foods neutralise acids too.

Here’s the top 9 best and worst foods and drinks:

1. Water

Drinking plenty of water is so good for you. It’s good for your health, perfect to stay hydrated, to quench thirst and it can help prevent tooth decay.

Tap water is almost free, environmentally friendly and usually fluoridated which will protect your teeth.

Saliva is mostly water[1]. It’s needed to breakdown food and neutralise the nasty bacterial acid we mentioned earlier. If you’re dehydrated your saliva can thicken which makes the acids and bacteria worse.

Rinsing your mouth with water after you eat can help wash away bits of food stuck in the gaps around your teeth. It can also help reduce staining.

Adding lemon to water has several health benefits but lemon is not good for your teeth. Much better to drink plain water or add a fruit that’s not acidic like lemons.

2. Dairy

Dairy products like cheese, milk and plain yoghurt are really good for your teeth. Milk is full of calcium which is great for your teeth. It helps to put the minerals back that other foods take and rebuild tooth enamel.

According to Orthodontics Australia, cheese is a superfood for teeth. Eating cheese after a meal is a great way to neutralise acid. Now that’s something to smile about. Say Cheese!

3. Fruits and Veggies

You’ve probably heard that apples are good for your teeth. But, did you know that fresh carrots, celery and cucumber pack a punch too.

There’s plenty of high-fibre fruits and veggies that help to keep your mouth healthy. Salad greens, leafy greens and delicious juicy fruits can actually help to clean your teeth and gums.

The extra chewing gets the saliva flowing which reduces the effects of acids and enzymes.

Don’t stop the citrus fruits! They’re packed full of vitamin C which is so good for you. It’s true that they also contain enamel-damaging acids (citric acid), but the real damage comes when you suck on the fruit.

Easy solution. Eat them with a meal to reduce the acid effects, or brush your teeth about hour or so after you’ve eaten citrus fruits.

An all-round win-win for fruits and veggies.

4. Lollies and chocolate

It’s not the latest news that lollies are bad for your teeth but not all sweets are created equal.

Sticky lollies are surprisingly sticky! They stick to your teeth and in all the little gaps in between for much longer than other foods. This means they have more chance to nibble away at your teeth and more likely to cause decay.

Sour lollies contain different kinds of acids which are much harder on the tooth enamel.

Hard lollies are full of sugar and tend to be sucked staying in your mouth longer. Because they’re hard, there’s also a risk of chipping or breaking a tooth.

Have chocolate instead…

Be honest. The mention of the word chocolate caught your attention, didn’t it?

Not all is lost if you have a sugar craving. You can compensate with (a small piece of dark) chocolate. Orthodontics Australia recommends chocolate that is at least 70% cacao. It’s still chocolate!

Chocolate is still full of sugar but it’s not chewed for very long and any remnants are washed away more easily.

Alternatively, chew sugarless gum to get the saliva going in your mouth. It is a great sweet alternative and can help repair any acid damage after a meal. Just chew it for 20 minutes to get the full benefit.

5. Sugary Drinks

Most drinks have sugar in them. Regular and ‘diet’ soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, fruit juices and cordials all have high levels of sugar[2] and acid in them.

Remember, it’s acid that causes tooth erosion. Tooth erosion will cause sensitivity, discolouration and increased wear by removing the hard enamel shell.

Even so-called ‘healthy drinks,’ such as flavoured waters, herbal teas, fruit smoothies and sports and energy drinks, can contain high levels of sugar and/or tooth-destroying acid.

Tooth erosion = tooth cavities = tooth pain = trip to the dentist

Every time you take a sip of a sugary drink, the acid kicks in and attacks. Every time. It’s a good idea to either use a straw or swish it down with a glass of water after.

Wait about an hour after drinking a sugary drink before you clean your teeth. The acid will have softened the enamel so waiting let’s your saliva harden the enamel again before you brush.

Water is still the best drink. And it’s free.

6. Dried fruits

Sadly, dried fruit isn’t the hero we would like to think it is. Of course, it’s more nutritious than lollies but dried fruit is full of sugar and generally quite sticky. It gets stuck on and in-between your teeth providing the sugar with the perfect opportunity to wreak havoc in your mouth.

If you love dried fruit, don’t stop enjoying it, just rinse your mouth with water after eating it. Then brush and floss your teeth as soon as you can. T

here’s no beating fresh fruit as an alternative.

7. Bread and biscuits

White bread is a no-no. In fact, the real culprit here are those foods loaded with starch, including hot chips, biscuits and crisps. They can taste so yummy but when you eat them, your saliva breaks the starch down into sugar. The chewed-up particles are more likely to stick to the crevices between your teeth which then hang around to destroy your teeth some more.

The good news is that whole wheat bread, (pasta and rice) are healthier, and they have more nutrients and contain less sugar. Go ahead and buy that delicious wholemeal sandwich for lunch! And if you’re tempted to gorge a bag of chips with it, make sure you floss after to remove the trapped bits.

8. Alcohol

The biggest issue with alcohol is becoming dehydrated and having a dry mouth. This is a danger alert for teeth and gums.

You probably know that the morning after a few drinks, you’ve got a dry mouth and usually bad breath with it. But what you may not realise is that having a dry mouth increases your chances of tooth cavities.

Saliva keeps your mouth moist which helps to remove the nasties in your mouth.

There’s the acid in alcohol and mixers. If you like to sip wine, you’re prolonging the exposure of your teeth to acid attack. Make sure you drink lots of water and wait an hour before brushing your teeth.

Wine is the same as water with sliced lemons in it for flavour – it becomes a highly acidic drink which can cause enamel erosion.

While we’re talking about enjoying a glass of your favourite tipple, it’s worth noting that, no matter how hard you think your teeth are, they are not indestructible. If you have a habit of crunching on ice, remember how tough ice is. It could cause tiny cracks or even a major chip at some point.

9. Sugar-free gum

Did you know that saliva has a protective effect in your mouth to repair the damage that acids can cause?

Chewing sugar-free gum after a meal promotes saliva production and speeds up the repair of your teeth. It’ll also freshen your breath.  It’s been shown that the full benefit comes after 20 minutes of chewing, so don’t stop before then!

Now you know…

You can continue to enjoy your favourite food or drink – just remember that it probably contains sugar. And, sugar is the number one enemy for your teeth.

The bacteria in your mouth converts the sugar to acid. The acid eats your tooth enamel which causes tooth decay. Ouch!

As there’s sugar in many foods and drinks these days it’s impossible to avoid it.

But, you can reduce how much you have of the worst foods.

And, you can brush, floss and rinse with mouthwash after eating them. Don’t forget to wait at least half an hour to an hour before brushing if you’ve eaten or drunk an acidic food or beverage.