Since we were children we’ve been told not to eat too many sweets or to have sugary drinks as our teeth will rot.
However, according to a dentist, it turns out all of this isn’t quite true. Wait, what?
In fact it’s acid not sugar which is the key cause of cavities, meaning there are things much worse for your teeth than sweets, chocolate and sugary drinks.
Dr. Mark Burhenne from AsktheDentist spoke to INSIDER about which foods and drinks to avoid.
Sugar isn’t the cause of tooth decay – acid is.
Bacteria’s waste product is acid, so after [the bacteria] have a meal, they excrete acid. Acid is what causes problems for teeth.
Acid decalcifies or demineralises tooth enamel by taking away its structure, creating decay.
In fact these bacteria, which naturally live in your mouth, consume the sugar and although it’s still best to avoid eating too many sweets, there are other things to stay clear of.
Here are the eight foods and drinks Dr. Burhenne says are worst for you teeth.
Be warned, the list may surprise you!
Dr. Burhenne said:
Saltine crackers are worse than candy for your teeth because they’re a fermentable and highly processed starch.
Many people don’t realise most crackers are highly processed and contain genetically engineered ingredients, essentially increasing the glycemic index and making the food more cariogenic (cavity-causing).
Goldfish: (not the pet kind)
It turns out those delicious salty fish-shaped crackers aren’t exactly good for you either, despite being a popular snack for kids.
Dr. Burhenne explained why:
Ever notice how saltine crackers or ‘Goldfish’ become sticky in your mouth as you’re chewing them?
Even better for the bacteria, that sticky goo gets stuck between your teeth and the bacteria can feast for even longer.
He also advised giving children fruit and vegetables as snacks rather than Goldfish – it just isn’t the same though.
To me dried fruit always sounded like a healthy snack option.
However, when the fruit is dried, the water is removed and so the natural sugars become ‘extremely concentrated’.
Dr. Burhenne explained:
This means 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.
Although cough drops will certainly heal a sore throat, they aren’t too good for your teeth and are said to be as bad as sweets.
Dr. Burhenne said:
When it comes to cavity formation, the best sweets are the ones you eat all at once.
Sucking on a hard candy — or a cough drop — means the teeth are exposed to sugar and acids for a lot longer than if you just had a slice of cake that went down the hatch quickly.
Again grapefruit sounds like it will be good for you, especially since it has ‘fruit’ in its name.
However, Dr. Burhenne said:
People think grapefruit is a great breakfast, but in fact, it’s very acidic.
Acidic things damage enamel, because it literally dissolves it. When you poor acid on something, it leeches out the calcium.
It’s well known coffee can stain your teeth but it does more damage than you may think.
The naturally occurring tannic acids swirl around in your mouth and can break down your tooth enamel causing decay.
The longer the liquid stays in your mouth, the worse the effects are.
Most surprising of all, diet drinks are actually worse for you than normal drinks
Dr. Burhenne said:
Diet soda has even more acid than regular soda. When they take out the sugar, there’s some tartness that is lost, so they add phosphoric acid.
Not only is there more acid, but the phosphoric acid can dissolve the calcium in the enamel of your teeth.
Bottled Lemon Iced Tea:
One of the leading brands of lemon iced tea, Nestea, has an astonishing pH level of 2.97, meaning having a sip of it is the same as drinking a spoonful of vinegar.
Dr. Burhenne recommended buying a set of pH testing strips to see which of your favourite drinks were causing the most damage to your teeth.
You would want the results to be as close to neutral – which is 7.00.
Of course these are extreme measures so for now, maybe just stick to water and milk which won’t do any damage over time?
Emily Murray is a journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in English Literature and History before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. Emily has previously worked for the BBC, ITV and Trinity Mirror. When Emily isn’t writing about topics including mental health and entertainment, you can find her at the cinema which is her second home.