5 Healthy Popular Foods That Are Surprisingly Bad for Your Teeth

Plus dentist-approved tips for counteracting them.

Want to spend less time in the dentist's chair? According to Heather Kunen, DDS, MS, a New York-based orthodontist and co-founder of Beam Street, the list of foods that are less than great for our dental health goes far beyond Coca-Cola and caramels. In fact, some of the most popular health foods today could be wreaking havoc on your enamel and overall oral health.

According to Dr. Kunen, these are the top five seemingly healthy foods that put your pearly whites at risk, as well as the steps to take to protect your teeth.

01 of 05

Hard Seltzer

"When it comes to any alcoholic beverage, the biggest concerns I have are the sugar content of the drink and the dry-mouth side effect of the alcohol itself," says Dr. Kunen. "These two combined are a perfect storm for cavity development."

Healthier and more natural alcoholic options like hard seltzer have been hitting the market for both oral and general health. As far as alcoholic beverages go, sparkling seltzers (like White Claw) have relatively clean ingredients and a somewhat low sugar content.

That said, according to Dr. Kunen, all carbonated beverages can decrease pH levels in the mouth. This creates a more acidic oral environment and makes enamel more vulnerable to wear and attack by bacteria. Additionally, all alcoholic drinks dry out the mouth, hindering an ideal salivary flow. This prevents a healthy stream of nutrients to oral tissues and makes teeth more vulnerable to cavities.

To counteract the effects of these alcoholic drinks, stay hydrated while drinking (alternate a glass of water with each glass of alcohol) and rinse out your mouth with water after you drink.

RELATED: You're Probably Brushing Your Teeth Wrong—Try These Dentist-Approved Tips for a Better Smile

02 of 05

Mulled Wine and Pumpkin Spice Lattes

Seasonal drinks like hot cider, mulled wine, and pumpkin spice lattes contain a very high sugar content, and they're typically sipped slowly over a long period of time. According to Dr. Kunen, each time a sweet beverage is consumed, the acidity inside your mouth rises along with the sugar that coats your teeth. After sipping a beverage containing sugar, alcohol, or caffeine, the pH in the mouth drops for about 20 minutes. When oral acidity increases, the enamel on your teeth softens and becomes more vulnerable to wear, erosion, and bacterial invasion. And…bring on the cavities.

"The best way to responsibly consume these beverages is to drink them quickly and rinse out your mouth afterward," says Dr. Kunen. "And wait a few minutes before you brush your teeth, or any softened enamel will be removed from the tooth surfaces." A simple rinse with water will adequately cleanse the mouth without hurting your teeth.

03 of 05


Kombucha tea has become a huge health trend over the past few years. The fermented tea drink is seriously good for you: It contains the antioxidants of tea and the probiotics to aid in gut health and ease inflammation. But it can be very damaging to your oral health. "The fermented, fizzy tea is extremely acidic," Dr. Kunen explains. "The high acidity of kombucha can cause significant erosion of enamel, which is the hard substance that covers teeth and protects it from insults like bacteria." Enamel is also the substance that keeps teeth looking white.

"While I would never discourage kombucha altogether, the best way to enjoy it is to drink it quickly and to rinse thoroughly with water after you're finished," she says. This will help to restore a neutral pH. And again: Never brush your teeth right after consuming an acidic substance, as softened enamel will be brushed away. Rinse gently with water only.

04 of 05


Trendy turmeric is a proven anti-inflammatory agent and wonderful for overall health. "Turmeric has strong antioxidant effects, and I would never discourage its consumption," Kunen says "However, it is a highly pigmented spice and can yellow teeth over time." EEK.

The best way to enjoy turmeric's advantageous effects without staining your teeth is to rinse your mouth thoroughly with water after you eat or drink anything that contains it.

05 of 05

Gummy Vitamins

All over social media, fans of gummy vitamins claim that they can lead to thicker hair, stronger nails, improved sleep, higher energy, and more. "If you examine the actual content of these supplements, most of them contain very standard vitamins found in the drugstore, but they are marketed to seem innovative," says Dr. Kunen. "Most don't pose any real health risks, but when they are sold in the form of a gummy, the sugar content can increase the propensity for cavities."

If you prefer to take vitamins in (an admittedly more delicious) gummy form, just remember to rinse your mouth after chewing them to remove the sticky sugar residue from tooth surfaces.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles