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Good or Bad? The Best and Worst Foods For Your Teeth

Updated: Jun 4

WHEN IT COMES TO A HEALTHY SMILE, brushing and flossing regularly are just part of maintaining good oral health. We all have heard "You are what you eat" and you may be surprised that this is true for your teeth and gums too.

Our dental assistant, Krissy, recently shared a dental hygiene habits presentation at her daughter's second grade class, and it made us think that some of these lessons may be helpful for our adult patients too! Read on to learn what foods are best, and worst, for your mouth and how to maintain a healthy smile.

Our RDA Krissy made this presentation to share tips for good oral hygiene with local elementary school students

Worst foods for teeth and gum health

Goldfish crackers and snacks with processed carbohydrates

Take it from your South San Francisco pedodontist and dental assistants: if the Goldfish cracker is bad for your kid's teeth, it's not great for yours either. Crackers with processed carbohydrates break down into sugars. Bacteria in your mouth feed on these sugars and in turn produce acids that break down tooth enamel. So just be aware, not all kid-friendly snacks are friends to your mouth!

Hard candy

As with most foods we eat, it's all about moderation: if you indulge in a treat once in a while, (and brush your teeth or drink water after doing so) it's better than frequently exposing yourself to the same treat. Hard candies and lollipops may be tasty but can be detrimental to your teeth: they take longer to eat than soft candies, meaning your teeth are exposed to sugar longer and prolonged exposure can contribute to tooth decay and cavities.

Dried fruit

While we may associate fruits with healthy foods, dried fruits are a hidden villain your teeth. When fruit is dried, the sugar content becomes highly concentrated, and the gummy texture of dried fruit clings to teeth just like candy would. Read on to see what fruits are best for your teeth!


In comparison to soda, juice may seem like a healthy alternative but very often, juices can be loaded with added sugar and acids that damage teeth quickly. It's a good idea to limit juice intake for yourself and your children, and if you do have juice, have some water ready to rinse your mouth! When your teeth come in contact with juice, it's easy for sugar to build up and impact tooth enamel.

Hard Pretzels and potato chips

Snacks like pretzels may be marketed as "healthy" but unlike a crunchy apple, a crunchy pretzel can stick to your teeth and stay in your mouth longer, causing decay or wreaking havoc on enamel. Potato chips are also a culprit, since they can easily get stuck in your teeth and convert to sugar. If potato chips and pretzels are hard to give up, read on to learn what options you can replace them with!

Boba and bubble tea

If you're a boba fan like we are, you might be sad to learn this drink is one of the worst offenders for oral health. One of the main reasons bubble tea is so bad for our teeth is the sugar: one bubble tea can have twice the amount of sugar as a can of Coke! Sipping away at a bubble tea over time constantly exposes your teeth to sugar, and the sticky chewy pearls, while they are tasty and fun to eat, can increase the likelihood of caries. If you are going to treat yourself with boba, be sure to rinse your mouth or brush afterwards!

Best foods for teeth and gum health

Low-fat Cheese, Milk, and Yogurt

Cheese is great for your teeth: it has high levels of phosphate and calcium, which naturally strengthen teeth and bones, and this also helps to balance the pH level in your mouth which means less acid that wears away at your teeth and can cause cavities. But the type of cheese matters too: go for aged, soft-ripened, and blue cheeses, and avoid processed and pre-packed cheese which often has added sugars that can wear down your enamel.

Yogurt is also beneficial for your teeth as it contains casein and calcium which strengthens your teeth enamel. While water is the healthiest beverage for your mouth, milk is the next best drink for your teeth. Like cheese, it lowers the acid levels in the mouth which fight tooth decay, and also has calcium to fortify your teeth and bones.


Eating an apple a day may not keep the doctor away but it can help remove plaque from your teeth and gums. Apples contain malic acid which has been shown to be effective at breaking down plaque and even whiten tooth enamel. Plus, crunching on apples stimulates alkaline saliva flow which neutralizes the acids created in dental plaque.


In general fibrous fruit like apples and watermelon act as a teeth cleaner, scrubbing your teeth while you chew. Watermelon also encourages saliva flow which prevents plaque, stains and cavities by neutralizing acid.


Did you know that bananas are one of the best fruits for your teeth? They are a source of vitamin B6, which the body needs to produce antibodies, which then in turn help to prevent gum disease. As well, bananas help with saliva production and can clean away leftover food particles. It's also important to note that because bananas are high in starch, it's always a good idea to drink some water after you eat a banana! Lingering starch in your mouth can encourage bacteria to develop.

Crunchy vegetables like carrots and celery

If you want to give your teeth a workout, grab a handful of carrot or celery sticks. Chewing on these veggies helps to clean your teeth and massages your gums in the process. Carrots are also a source of keratin, which is known to fight plaque, and Vitamin A, which strengthens tooth enamel. All that chewing will also produce saliva to wash away food and neutralize bacteria.

Nuts and seeds

Nature's treats provide many health benefits! From being a good source of protein to providing healthy fats and fibers, nuts and seeds are a welcomed alternative to starchy snacks like chips and gummy candy. Not only do nuts and seeds provide important vitamins and minerals, they also promote saliva flow which is a natural defense against cavities.

Whole grain snacks

When it comes to snacks, the goal is to opt for foods that are less likely to stick to your teeth for a long time. That's why whole grain options like whole wheat pretzels or whole grain chips are a nice option: they are less likely to stick your teeth and they also contain more fiber than processed chips and crackers, which is an overall win for oral health.

Building healthy habits

At the end of the day, diet is one of a variety of factors in maintaining a healthy mouth. Home care, or proper daily brushing and flossing, as well as regular professional dental cleanings and check-ups also play a large role in keeping your oral hygiene in check. Timing is also important too: letting any sugary substance coat your teeth for extended time is never ideal so try your best to enjoy your soda or snacks in a timely manner, and be prepared with water to rinse your mouth after enjoying.

We know there is a lot of information out there about health and oral hygiene. We are here to answer your questions and partner with you on your journey to optimal oral health!

Sources: NIH, ADA


The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.



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