Common Decay-Causing Foods

Hidden Culprits:  Foods you’ll be surprised cause tooth decay

I wrote in an earlier post about how cavities form and how you can strengthen your teeth against them.  In this post, I’m going to dive into more detail regarding food and drink that are cause cavities.  Read on and you’ll likely discover a few foods that are a little more risky than you thought!

Dentists have long understood that sugars cause cavities, but as with most things, there’s more to the story than that. We can actually break down cariogenic (cavity-causing) foods into several categories, each with different ways of promoting cavities:

1.    Simple Carbohydrates

Simple carbs, like a piece of bread or plain pasta, are broken down in the mouth by an enzyme called salivary amylase into glucose. Glucose is a simple sugar.

This sugar feeds bacteria, which in turn make the acid that eats away tooth mineral, forming holes or “cavities”.

This means that foods like crackers, bread, and baked goods turn into sugar in the mouth, and promote the formation of cavities.

Saliva is the key to protection from Carbs.  They’re much safer to eat at mealtimes, when saliva flow is adequate to flush away sugars and lower mouth acidity.  Carbs at snack time are much more damaging due to lack of stimulated saliva flow.

2.    Hidden Sugars

Unbeknownst to many, most modern processed foods (and even some “natural” ones) contain sugar.  Sneaky sugar-containing foods include:

Hamburger buns at fast food restaurants

Fruit leather

-Granola bars

-Dried fruit

-Sports drinks

Packaged snack foods


-Many dips and condiments

-Peanut butter

3.    Acidic Foods

Acidic foods promote cavities by creating an acidic environment next to your teeth, which pulls the minerals out of your teeth, softening them and eventually causing cavities.

Many people are surprised to discover that many, many common foods are acidic enough to create an “acid attack” on your teeth every time you put them in your mouth:


-Lemon water

-Orange juice

-Canned iced tea

-Pop and most canned drinks

-Carbonated drinks


-Energy drinks

-Tea sweetened with honey

-Coffee  (least acidic of all the above)

 4.    Sticky foods

This category is for foods that seem safe but tend to “stick around” for a while after you chew them.  Common culprits include:

-Soft granola bars

-Fruit leather

-Dried fruit

-Sticky candy or toffee


Stickiness alone isn’t enough to cause a cavity.  But combine stickiness with any of the above categories and you’ve got a double whammy cavity producer!

In conclusion, remember that a cavity can only happen when foods and/or plaque overwhelm your natural defenses against cavities:  Saliva, oral hygiene, and the natural food-shedding shape of teeth and gums.  Lower your risk through awareness of the above factors and foods.

Stay tuned for the next post, which will go into detail about foods that don’t cause tooth decay!