10 Summer Foods That Are Hard on Your Teeth

Saltwater Taffy Candy Background.

As with any season, one of the things that makes summer so enjoyable is all the special summer foods. Unfortunately, many of those foods can also be damaging to your teeth. You don’t have to avoid these foods completely, but enjoying them in moderation is strongly recommended to reduce your need for reconstructive dentistry.

Saltwater Taffy

If your summer plans include travel to any part of the US and you stop into a small tourist town, the odds are upwards of 90% that they will be selling saltwater taffy. Saltwater taffy has been a feature of US tourist traps for better than a century, and there’re no signs that it’s going away any time soon.

Which is a shame, because saltwater taffy is terrible for your teeth. It’s sticky and loaded with sugar. The pieces that stick to your teeth can fuel oral bacteria for hours, giving them fuel to unleash their acid attack on your teeth. And the taffy is sticky enough that it can pull out fillings and crowns! Maybe only indulge in this treat every few years.

Ice Cream

Ice cream is a delicious, refreshing treat on a hot summer day. But its very attraction–the coldness–is what can make it hard on your teeth.

When you eat ice cream you’ll know right away if your tooth enamel has eroded–your teeth will be very sensitive to cold. Metal fillings can also make your teeth more sensitive to cold foods like ice cream.

The good news is that it’s not as bad as it could be: the dairy somewhat compensates for the sugar content because it mediates acid in your mouth. Want to go one step better? Eat frozen yogurt, which contains protective enzymes that slow the growth of bacteria in your mouth.

Baked Beans

No barbecue is really complete without baked beans. These beans are like the life and soul of the party, and everybody has their own secret family recipe.

The problem is that in most of these recipes, the secret ingredient is sugar. One popular baked beans recipe contains 35 grams of sugar per serving. That’s about one and a half times the amount of sugar you’re supposed to eat all day. You can bet that your oral bacteria are the ones celebrating any time you dig into those beans.

Funnel Cake

Any visit to a fair, carnival, or amusement park will likely come with some horribly indulgent fried foods. Funnel cake is one of the tastiest, and, as far as your teeth are concerned, one of the worst. Whether you have it sprinkled with powdered sugar or spread with jam, there’s plenty of sugar there to fuel decay.

And all that fat isn’t doing your heart any good, either. Try to make this a once-in-a-summer thing.

Funnel cake / Carnival food, selective focus


Is there any beverage that says “summer” like lemonade? Sweet, cool, and tangy, it’s the perfect complement to summer afternoons spent out on the patio.

Except that it’s also terrible for your teeth. The acid in lemonade will eat away your tooth enamel, and the sugar will fuel your oral bacteria. Plus your habit of sipping a glass slowly over hours maximizes the damage from sugar and acid.

It feels like too much of a killjoy to say you can’t drink lemonade, but limit it, try not to sip too slowly, and intersperse it with less acidic and sugary drinks.

Corn on the Cob

There’s a lot to love about corn on the cob. Although it tastes sweet, it’s actually low in sugar, and it’s not acidic. The main thing is that eating it off the cob can be stressful on your incisors. And the corn can get caught between your teeth, which can irritate your gums.

It’s not as bad as popcorn, but it can definitely be hard on your teeth.

BBQ Ribs

Unlike corn, rib meat isn’t hard to get off the bone. It should pretty much fall right off. But it still has fibers that can get caught in your teeth and irritate your gums. It doesn’t matter how soft the meat is, these fibers can still be a nuisance.

And BBQ sauce is a surprising source of sugar. Sometimes it’ll be caramelized enough that little is left, but usually it’s like having a sugar bomb. An alternative is making ribs with a dry rub that has less sugar.


Coleslaw is the second requisite side at many family barbecues, sitting right next to the baked beans. It seems an even healthier alternative, since it’s got so many vegetables. And if you make a vinaigrette coleslaw rather than a creamy one, you might think you’re saving yourself the fat.

But coleslaw can be loaded with sugar and the vinaigrette slaw is highly acidic, too.

Small portions mixed with other foods can help mitigate the damage.


Ah, a frozen drink by the pool is a great way to relax on your vacation, and nothing says, “I’m not working” like a daiquiri.

But daiquiris are bad for your teeth. Not only do you have the icy cold, you’ve got a lot of sugar and acid. Plus the alcohol can contribute to dehydration, which reduces your saliva levels. Since saliva protects your teeth, this can make your teeth more vulnerable to decay. And many popular daiquiri flavors are strongly colored, which can lead to tooth discoloration.

Sports Drinks

If you love being active in the summer, you’re going to sweat here in Houston. And when you sweat, you might think that the right thing to do is to replenish your electrolytes with a sports drink (thanks, marketing!) But the benefits of sports drinks is probably outweighed by their ability to cause serious damage to your teeth. Many flavors of sports drink are highly acidic and they can be very sugary.  Plus, drinking them when you’re dehydrated means that your teeth are more vulnerable to the acid because there’s less saliva to neutralize it.

For rehydration, water is best. If you want to enjoy sports drinks, start and finish with water.

When Problems Crop Up

When dental problems crop up, it can really ruin the experience of summer fun. And as long as you don’t get them fixed, they’ll keep making it hard to enjoy your festivities. It’s best to get problems fixed as soon as they surface.

If you are looking for a Houston area dentist that can help you enjoy the benefits of a healthy, beautiful smile this summer, please call (281) 367-5559 today for an appointment with cosmetic dentist Dr. Scott Young, Purveyor of Fine Dentistry.