8 Surprising Foods That Can Be Bad for Your Teeth

You might rethink some of your regular snacks.

You may already know candy leads to cavities, and wine can stain your pearly whites. But as it turns out, many other seemingly harmless foods can compromise oral hygiene.

Cracking teeth, eroding the enamel, causing cavities, and drying out your mouth, these eight everyday foods can damage your teeth unless you eat them in moderation.

Here's what you need to know about the surprising teeth-harming foods that dentists advised against overdoing.

Sunflower Seeds

The seed itself is not bad for your teeth. Instead, the sunflower seed's hull is the problem, Tyrone Rodriguez, DDS, a pediatric dentist, told Health.

"The fact that it has a hard outer shell, and you're trying to bite through that shell. That can cause damage," explained Dr. Rodriguez. 

For example, a study published in 2017 in the Journal of Conservative Dentistry described a 44-year-old female patient who consumed sunflower seeds as a snack with notches on her teeth since childhood. 

The pattern of tooth wear corresponded to the seed shape. The particular style of cracking the seed shell by keeping it vertically between the upper and lower incisors and applying some force to crack it caused the notching.

So, if you're a fan of the protein-packed snack, avoid cracking sunflower seeds with your teeth or opt for hulled seeds instead of sunflower seeds.

Ice Cubes

While it may be soothing or stress-relieving for some people, chewing on ice can damage because both tooth enamel and ice are made of crystals, Matthew Messina, DDS, clinic director of the Ohio State Upper Arlington Dentistry, told Health

"When you push two crystals against each other with enough force, one is going to break," noted Dr. Messina. 

Ice can lead to cavities or cracks in your enamel, causing increased sensitivity to hot and cold foods and drinks. Instead, enjoy your water in its liquid form.

Flavored Waters and Seltzer

Even if your flavored seltzer is sugar-free, that doesn't mean it's acid-free, said Dr. Rodriguez. Some flavored seltzers and water contain citric acid, a common culprit of enamel erosion. 

"Once your enamel gets worn away, it will never come back," Genaro Romo, DDS, a dentist based in Chicago, told Health

As the protective layer erodes, your teeth are vulnerable to cavities, decay, chips, and sensitivity.

Research has found that a lot of carbonation leads to enamel erosion. But adding calcium, a mineral salt found in some sparkling water brands, to the water reduces that effect. 

Dried Fruit

Dried fruit is full of fiber and vitamins. But those tasty snacks are also full of sticky substances that can damage your teeth if you eat them too often.

"When you pull the water out, what's left behind is concentrated sugar and acid, and the fruit itself becomes a lot stickier," explained Dr. Rodriguez. 

For example, raisins and dried cherries may stick in the grooves and crevices in your teeth. Bacteria in your mouth could feast on that deposited sugar. Those bacteria produce acid, which then dissolves your enamel and causes cavities. 

Research has shown that dried fruit has nutritional benefits, contains anti-microbial substances, and provides a possible dental use of more chewing. Though, as of January 2023, more research is needed to support that claim.

Gummy Vitamins

"Everyone thinks gummies are okay," said Dr. Rodriguez. But the sweet and sticky vitamins aren't much better for your teeth than candy. 

A study published in 2021 in the British Dental Journal pointed out that gummy vitamins supply sugars and citric acid, which can lower the mouth's pH, leading to tooth decay.

If you want to avoid another sticky substance for your teeth, try chewable vitamins or even liquid versions, advised Dr. Rodriguez.

"You can take a few drops and add it to beverages or food," noted Dr. Rodriguez.

Potato Chips

Chips are sneaky, Alice Boghosian, DDS, a consumer advisor for the American Dental Association (ADA), told Health. Like dried fruit and gummies, they adhere to your teeth. 

"It's something you don't think about," noted Dr. Boghosian.

The starch in the potatoes turns into sugar. Then, your body metabolizes that sugar into acid. So, if you enjoy a bag of chips now and again, wash them down with lots of water and consider flossing afterward, added Dr. Romo.

"My suggestion, as a dentist, is always to make sure that when you're done eating, you're actually done. You're not leaving anything behind," explained Dr. Romo. So, cleaning your teeth right after a sticky snack may help avoid decay.

Sports Drinks

Sure, sports drinks replenish electrolytes after a long workout. But don't forget that those beverages pack a lot of sugar. 

"It's one thing to have a sports drink every once in a while," said Dr. Romo. "But if [it's part of your] daily workout routine, read the ingredients. You'd be surprised at some of these drinks [and] how much sugar they have."

The next time you grab that sugary sports drink after a vigorous workout, opt for water instead. 


Aside from the staining and the sugar, alcohol dries out your mouth, making you prone to cavities. Some evidence suggests that alcohol use disorder may also increase the risk of gum disease.

"There's a reason why your mouth salivates," explained Dr. Romo. "[Saliva] washes your mouth, it keeps everything clean, and it neutralizes the mouth, so it's not acidic." But that doesn't mean you need to swear off alcohol altogether.

"With alcohol, moderation is the key," added Dr. Romo. 

A Quick Review

Everyday foods, such as ice, gummy vitamins, or sunflower seeds, can damage your teeth if you consume them excessively. By causing cavities or cracks or wearing down enamel, those foods should be consumed in moderation to preserve strong and healthy teeth.

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