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Tooth decay and diet

Diet is a vital component of any oral health care regimen and as a dentist, guiding patients towards healthier eating is part of your job.

In this post, we’ll cover some of the worst offenders that aren’t always recognized as serious threats to oral health. We’ll also provide healthy alternatives, particularly for patients who love to snack between meals.

The other ‘sugary’ drink

The success of diet soda is perhaps the greatest marketing ploy of all time. Diet soda is bad for your diet and bad for your teeth. And non-carbonated sugar-free drinks are no better.

Diet drinks contain phosphoric and citric acid which are corrosive to teeth. And the syrups used to flavor the drinks stick to teeth. Add to the equation that sugar-free drinks dry your mouth and it’s a perfect storm.

It’s hard to get patients to give up diet soda altogether but at the very least they should be encouraged to cut back. First and foremost, patients need to understand that sugar-free drinks are not a tooth-friendly alternative.


Too much citrus, especially in highly concentrated forms like lime or lemon juice, can add unhealthy levels of acidity to your mouth. In addition, the extreme acidity can lead to acid reflux causing further damage to molars.

The problem with starch

Foods made with a white flour base are known as simple carbs. More than just being problematic to one’s waistline, simple carbs can stick to your teeth and quickly convert to simple sugars. Snacks like crackers are problematic as the residue can linger in your mouth all the way to your next brushing.

More than just a stain

Coffee drinkers are more likely to suffer from stained teeth than tobacco users. Coffee can also be highly acidic.


While not as damaging as soda, both beer and wine can contain high sugar levels.

The good guys

No single dietary change will do more for oral health than increasing water consumption. Water is the primary component of saliva, which clears food from the gums and teeth.

Here are a few other mouth-friendly foods to recommend:

  • Raisins: While sweet, the fructose and glucose in raisins are less harmful than other types of sugar.
  • Walnuts, almonds and cashews: These nuts are packed with vitamins and require a lot of chewing to eat, which stimulates saliva production and cleanses teeth.
  • Eggs: The phosphorus in eggs leads to the formation of stronger tooth enamel.
  • Fatty fish: The phosphorus and vitamin D in fish like salmon create an environment that makes it easier for your body to absorb calcium.
  • Apples, carrots, cucumbers and leafy greens: Packed with vitamins and requiring a lot of chewing, these fruits and veggies will naturally scrub teeth while you are eating.

Toothbrush on the go

It may be tough to convince a patient to give up up coffee, pizza and all sugary drinks. A more likely solution may be to educate patients on the value of a quick brush following the enjoyment of high-risk foods and drinks.