Remember mom’s advice to finish your milk (without the cookies) for cavity-free dental visits? Can what you eat really affect your dental health? Or should you file this under “You’ll catch a cold if you don’t wear that jacket!”

The foods and drinks that make up your diet can directly influence the occurrence and progression of tooth decay. Watch out for:

  • Sugar
  • Sticky or slow to dissolve foods like caramel
  • Acidic foods and beverages

Your mouth is home to bacteria, which is fueled by carbohydrates. So, when you eat less sugar or carbs like white bread or rice that ferment easily, you will likely decrease your risk for cavities. Cut back on sugar by reading labels. Ingredients are listed by weight, from most to least. So, if an ingredient list starts with sugar, or any term ending in ‘’-ose,” the food is high in sugar.

Some ingredients to look out for include cane sugar, turbinado sugar, corn sweeteners or syrup, high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, molasses, malt syrup, dextrin, evaporated cane juice, fruit juice concentrate, and honey.


Which foods and drinks are high in sugar? Soft drinks, energy drinks, and soft drinks can contain over 35% sugar! Aside from desserts and candy, watch out for fruit drinks, breakfast cereal, fruit roll-ups or fruit snacks, and power bars.


Snacking on hard or sticky candies like lollipops, taffy, and caramel, cookies or cupcakes, and chips offers little nutritional value and sugar that may stick to your teeth, feeding your mouth’s bacteria, releasing acids that can lead to tooth decay.


Your beverage choice can also be a source of sugar. That refreshing glass of lemonade, sweetened iced tea, coffee with two packets of sugar, or can of soda bathes your teeth in sugar, which may lead to tooth decay. Acidic drinks may also bring harmful effects.

To minimize the acidic effect of foods like tomatoes or oranges, eat them as part of a meal. Dried fruits like raisins or apricots may stick to teeth, producing harmful plaque acids. Choose an apple or fresh fruit instead.