Cariogenic Diet: Foods that are Bad for Enamel

Cariogenic Foods

A cariogenic Diet is bad for your teeth. It helps the proliferation of bacteria or alters the acid-base balance around the teeth resulting in dental caries.

More often than not, the importance of dental health is ignored. Oral hygiene is an integral part of our life it is just as important as our overall health.

These days due to the high consumption of junk foods and other processed foods, people’s dental health is compromised frequently.

These foods can stick in between the teeth and become susceptible to the action of micro-organisms on them which eventually leads to dental caries.

For this reason, oral hygiene practices must be carefully practiced on frequent occasions to avoid the incidence of dental caries.

Foods that are in a liquid form are generally less cariogenic because of their fluid consistency they do not stick anywhere in the mouth. However, this is not the case for kids if they sleep with a feeding bottle.

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What is Cariogenic Diet and Foods?

Cariogenic foods are the food items that are capable of causing dental caries due to the presence of fermentable carbohydrates or their consistency or the time of exposure to the pathogens in the mouth.

These foods have the tendency to increase the risk of dental caries by sticking in between the teeth.

What is Dental Caries?

Dental caries or tooth decay is yielded by the existence of bacteria that decreases the pH in your mouth by making acids that damage the surface of the tooth making a cavity that will lead to an infection if it remains untreated.

The causes of dental caries include high consumption of sugar-filled foods, sipping on sweet drinks, not brushing your teeth, snacking frequently, etc.

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Influence of Television on Cariogenic Diet and Dental Caries

Another leading cause of dental caries is the impact of television. Every day various food items are advertised which influences people to buy them and bring them home, the fact is that these foods are usually cariogenic.

Children watch television most of the time and tend to snack while watching and these children have bad oral hygiene as dental caries occurs in children more than in adults.

An observational study evaluated the incidence of television on the development of dental caries. Students from sixth and seventh grade (ages 10 to 12) were selected from various schools.

A questionnaire was filled out by both the students and, their parents, and information regarding the decayed, missing, and filled teeth was given.

Findings showed that children who watched television for more than 1 hour and 30 minutes were more likely to eat cariogenic foods and have a decayed, missing, or filled tooth with an odds ratio (OR) of 2.10.

Similarly, the ORs for children who ate cariogenic foods while watching TV and have a decayed, missing, or filled tooth was even higher (14.75).

It also showed that parents who purchased cariogenic foods that they saw on TV influenced their children to eat more of these. [Ref]

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Examples of Cariogenic Diet and Foods


Sticky foods

As one can tell by the name of it, these foods can stick in between the teeth. This way they allow decay-causing bacteria to act upon them and release acids that will reduce the pH inside the mouth leading to cavity formation.

Once a cavity is formed it will eventually result in tooth loss if this condition remains untreated. Sticky foods include candies, gums, dried fruits, chocolates, etc.

Sugar Filled Foods

Sugar-filled beverages are of special concern. One of the most prominent causes of dental caries is the consumption of sugar-filled beverages.

Kids do not really brush their teeth as they should and the fermentable carbs present in the drinks can be a substrate for microbial actions.

Similarly, sugar-filled foods like pastries, cakes, and brownies, can have the same impact.


Crackers are like sticky foods that can easily get stuck in the teeth and present as substrates for bacteria.


Yes! Fruits can also cause dental caries since they contain fermentable carbs which is exactly what bacteria need to act on and cause the pH in the mouth to become acidic.

Therefore, it is essential to rinse your mouth after eating fruits.

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Factors Affecting the Cariogenicity of Foods


Form of Food

The form of food determines the length of time it will be exposed to the pathogens in the mouth or how long it will be retained in the mouth.

The longer a food is retained in the mouth the lower the pH will be dropped and acid will be produced. Foods that are in liquid form spend less time in the mouth and are easily swallowed.

However, solid foods like crackers or cookies have a higher adherence and will stick in the interproximal spaces.

Consistency of Food

Another important factor is the consistency of foods, chewy products like chewing gum and marshmallows high a lower adherence because they stimulate saliva production and cause an increase in pH as opposed to solid foods.

Duration of Exposure

A longer duration of exposure of foods to decay-inducing bacteria causes cavity formation in the mouth. An example of starchy foods will be good, such foods have a higher content of fermentable carbs which is the perfect substrate for bacterial action. So, if they remain stuck in the teeth then cavities are inevitable.

Similar is the example of sugar candies, when sucking on hard candies like lollipops the length of exposure to sugar in the mouth is enhanced.

Sequence and Frequency of Eating

The sequence in which the foods are eaten can determine the cariogenicity of the food. For example, bananas are cariogenic, however, their composition can be less cariogenic if eaten with milk since liquids help with rinsing the mouth of any food stuck in the teeth.

Crackers also become less cariogenic if eaten with cheese. The more repeatedly food is devoured the lower will be the pH. Bacteria start making acids after 5 to 15 minutes of intake of fermentable carbohydrates.

Small but regular meals can be cariogenic. If you consume a pack of cookies and then rinse your mouth adequately or brush your teeth then the likelihood of any caries is lowered.

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What do you think?

Written by Dr. Ahmed

I am Dr. Ahmed (MBBS; FCPS Medicine), an Internist and a practicing physician. I am in the medical field for over fifteen years working in one of the busiest hospitals and writing medical posts for over 5 years.

I love my family, my profession, my blog, nature, hiking, and simple life. Read more about me, my family, and my qualifications

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