Diet & Dental Health

Eating a balanced diet including protein and calcium will help keep teeth healthy. Learn which foods stain teeth and why you should stop drinking soda, smoking and chewing on ice.

What are the nutrients that teeth need to stay strong? And which foods contain those nutrients?

Dr. Darren McKeever: Well, I really find that anyone who just has a balanced diet is going to be providing the proper nutrients to keep their teeth healthy. Everyone is a little bit different you know, they might need a little more of this, or a little more of that. More often in dentistry we think of things that they need to have less of in order to keep their teeth healthy, but you know obviously teeth are made out of calcium. If you’re not providing enough calcium in your diet, your teeth are going to suffer from that. Proteins. There are a lot of proteins involved in the gums and in the teeth themselves as well. So, you really want to make sure that you’re providing that. But more often than not, keeping the teeth strong and healthy, a balanced diet and watching certain things that are detrimental. Those are the keys.

Which foods don’t help teeth stay clean and bright?

Dr. Darren McKeever: Well when we talk about clean and bright, we’re really talking more often about staining. We’re not talking necessarily about the whole tooth becoming darker. That is more of a maturation process as we all mature through our lives. But there are certain things that definitely will stain teeth and make them look dingier. Coffee is a huge stainer. Tea is even worse from my experience. Other things like red wine can actually stain the outside of teeth, but they don’t really make the inside of the tooth darker, where you would have to like bleach the tooth or whiten the tooth so to speak in order to bring the color back. Most stains can be removed easily at your next checkup and your next cleaning.

Do what you want with your teeth but make sure you maintain them. You want to keep them clean and bright, but if you’re a heavy coffee drinker or God forbid a smoker, then just have them cleaned a little more frequently. But if you want to enjoy red wine, enjoy it. It is not going to damage your teeth, but you do have to expect you might need a little more frequent maintenance with some of these things.

What are the worst foods and drinks that can actually damage teeth?

Dr. Darren McKeever: Well, in my opinion, I mean you know we’re obviously talking about sugars, we’re talking about candies, but one of the things that most people don’t realize is soda. Soda is brutal on teeth. It is a very, very often acidic mixture. It is not a natural food by any means, you can’t find soda anywhere in nature and the acids in the soda will literally erode the teeth. You can literally take an extracted tooth, put it in a new jar of, I won’t say which brand, but of a certain soda and it will become dingy and rough and start to erode after a while. So, soda is the biggest offender in my world.

Sugary things are also a problem. Obviously candies because they feed the bacteria that are trying to damage our teeth. A lot of what we’re seeing lately, sports drinks that may have imbalances in their electrolytes are a little too alkaline sometimes and they can also be acidic. You think it’s healthy because it’s, you know, replenishing your electrolytes after you work out or you’re having a sports game or something like that. Or on a hot day. But they can also be damaging to your teeth. But if I had to pick only one, one thing to ban, it would be soda.

Can dieting cause dental problems?

Dr. Darren McKeever: Well, dieting can if you’re not able to maintain a balance in the nutrients that you’re providing in that diet. More often than not, what we see with dieting issues is people who have an extreme approach to the diet. Bulimia, things along those lines. In addition, we have to worry about certain diets, there are certain fad diets that come along that can actually cause an increase in the acidity of the gastric process, and if someone might have gastric reflux, that will affect the teeth negatively. But more often than not, most actual dieting is not going to be too detrimental to the teeth. You would see very limited effects on that, unless they’re extreme diets.

Are there any other diet habits that can impact dental health?

Dr. Darren McKeever: When we say diet habits, we usually mean habitual things that people do and eat and put in their mouths. Things that are very hard, seem to be very detrimental. People who chew ice, it’s not really part of your diet, but it is a habitual thing that people eat. That can cause a lot of damage. Really hard things, can cause damage depending on how often they’re eaten. Some people have very, very high concentrations of nuts in their diets. If the teeth have very large fillings or if they have fractures in them that haven’t been treated, you can actually break off, you can crack part of your tooth with a nut. So, we worry about things like that. I’m going back to candies again, lollipops, things like that that people chew on. Not only is the sugar detrimental, but the hardness of that item when you’re trying to masticate it is a problem. You really don’t want to be chewing excessively hard things in a habitual and frequent manner.

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If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Darren McKeever, visit or call 973-839-8180 to schedule an appointment.

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