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Enamel is the hard, white coating that protects the dentin and other inner layers of the teeth. Tooth enamel does not contain any living cells, so cannot regenerate itself if damaged. When it comes to food and beverages, there are some particularly grievous offenders when it comes to the health of your tooth enamel. Certain foods and drinks can quickly eat away at your enamel, causing a domino effect of discoloration, erosion, and sensitivity to hot, cold, and sweets.

Damage to teeth is due mostly to acid and sugar. Acid causes the teeth to become temporarily porous, allowing food to stain them more easily and making them vulnerable to erosion. Sugar provides a rich food source to bacteria which causes cavities. There are many things you can do to take care of your enamel, including brushing your teeth twice a day and cleaning between them with dental floss, along with avoiding or minimizing the most damaging foods.

What Are the Worst Foods and Drinks for Tooth Enamel?

Hard candy: these candies are not only filled with sugar that feeds bacteria, but also tend to stick around on your teeth for a long time, encouraging damage. In addition, chewing on hard candy can chip or crack teeth.

Chewy foods: taffy, dried fruit, gummy candy, and other chewy foods stick to the teeth and allow bacteria to multiply, damaging enamel and causing cavities. Sour candies are one of the worst – the kinds coated in that white powdery acid – because they are loaded with citric acid that strips teeth of their protective coating.

Carbonated beverages: according to a recent survey, 17% of Americans drink at least one regular sweetened soda every day. The $77 billion a year industry certainly enjoys marketing success, unfortunately that success comes at the cost of many Americans’ dental health. Soda is a double whammy to tooth enamel, with the added citric acid breaking down the valuable tooth coating and sugar providing fuel to cavity-causing bacteria. Even diet soda can be a problem because even without sugar, it still contains plenty of acid.

Pickled foods: you probably wouldn’t think of pickles as something to be concerned about in regards to your oral health, but they are. Pickled foods are made with vinegar, which is acidic and damaging to teeth. Many products also contain a significant amount of sugar, adding to the risk of erosion.

Peanut butter: this protein-filled favorite is delicious and even somewhat healthy in moderation, but it sticks to teeth and gums allowing bacteria to flourish and potential eat away at your teeth.

Pasta sauce: you may not think of your favorite Italian meal being bad for your oral health but the acid in the tomato sauce softens enamel, allowing not only damage to it but also giving stains easy access.