25 Foods and Drinks That Are Wrecking Your Teeth and Gums

Source: Bojan89 / Getty Images

Teeth are the hardest things in the body, and some of the most practical. Without them, we couldn’t chew our food into easier digestibility; we’d have a hard time making ourselves understood when we talked; and we’d never be able to open those particularly recalcitrant potato chip bags.

The normal adult mouth has 32 teeth, their roots buried in the gums, their business ends coated in almost impenetrable white enamel over a layer of hard tissue called dentin. 

Though they’re pretty sturdy, teeth are susceptible to damage from several sources (not counting getting knocked out or broken in an accident or a fight). Cavities, also called caries, are small holes that form in the tooth surfaces when streptococcus bacteria damage the enamel.

The bacteria feed on sugar and multiply, combining with other substances in the mouth to create plaque, a transparent film that quickly coats the teeth. If plaque isn’t brushed off thoroughly, it forms tartar, a harder coating whose removal generally requires the skills of a dental hygienist.

The bacteria in plaque and tartar attack the teeth, causing cavities, sensitivity to heat and cold, and sometimes gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums. (Tooth decay is a term that refers to diseases of the teeth in general.)

Foods that are high in sugar and/or acid — which also attacks the tooth enamel — can wreck your teeth and harm your gums. There are other dangers too, though: Biting down on hard foods the wrong way can crack, chip, or break teeth. Grinding teeth, which usually happens when you’re asleep, can damage them too. Also, some substances — for instance red wine and coffee — can stain the teeth. This isn’t necessarily harmful in itself, but isn’t very nice to look at. 

Basically, any food or drink that’s acidic or has a high sugar content (or is very hard) can do damage to your teeth, but some things we consume tend to get called out by dentists and other health authorities more frequently than others. For the good of your teeth and for your overall well-being, you should be aware of the top ways to cut sugar and boost your health.

24/7 Tempo has assembled a list of 25 of the worst offenders. Just because they can do damage, though, doesn’t mean you need to avoid them. After all, they’re some of the most delicious things we consume — and at least sometimes among the healthiest. 

Rinsing out your mouth or brushing your teeth when you’ve finished eating or drinking will go a long way toward minimizing the harmful effects of these items — and good old-fashioned moderation is helpful, too. Here are some other healthy eating habits that will change your life.