Hard candies such as Jolly Ranchers don’t cling to your teeth as readily as chewy candy, but they have their own downside: Unlike, say, chocolate-based sweets, which are chewed quickly and wash away relatively easily, hard candy dissolves slowly and saturates your mouth for several minutes at a time, giving bacteria more time to produce harmful acid. To make matters worse, many varieties of hard candy are flavored with citric acid.
Besides, if you bite down wrong on some hard candies, they can chip your teeth—something no amount of brushing or flossing can repair. They don’t call ’em jawbreakers for nothing!
Acid (typically provided by vinegar) is essential to the pickling process. It’s what gives pickles their sour, salty taste—and it’s also what makes them a potential hazard to tooth enamel. In one 2004 study that looked at the eating habits of English teenagers, pickles were the solid food most closely linked with tooth wear. Eating them more than once a day increased the odds of wear by about 85%.
Most of us don’t eat pickles that often, however, and snacking on them every now and then isn’t likely to noticeably affect your dental health, Messina says.
It’s no secret that drinking too many sugary sodas can breed cavities. What’s less well-known is that the acids found in carbonated soft drinks appear to harm teeth even more than the sugar. The upshot? Even sugar-free diet sodas like Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi—which both contain citric and phosphoric acid—can erode enamel if consumed in large doses.
If you can’t do without soda, your best bet is to drink it during a meal, rather than sipping it throughout the day. The food will help neutralize the acid, Messina says, and “the time of exposure to the acid is much shorter.”
Best and Worst Foods for Your Teeth