What to eat for healthy teeth

How to support and encourage tooth-friendly food and drink choices as much as possible.


For a healthy mouth and body, we should all be trying to:

Limit sugary foods

  • Sugary food and drinks can cause tooth decay. Try not to have these foods too often.
  • Also try to avoid highly processed carbohydrates (‘starchy’ foods) such as white bread, potato chips and fast foods as these can also contribute to tooth decay.

Avoid or limit sweet drinks that can cause tooth decay

  • Tooth decay can be very painful. In some cases it can lead to loss of teeth.
  • Sweet drinks include; soft drinks (both regular and diet), fruit juices and cordials, energy drinks, sports drinks, vitamin waters, flavoured milks.
  • Sweet drinks can also lead to weight gain, increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart and kidney disease, stroke and some cancers. Limit these drinks or avoid them completely if possible.
  • Choose refreshing tap water instead of sweet drinks.

Avoid or limit sugar-free or ‘diet’ drinks which can damage teeth

  • Even though there is no sugar, these drinks can still be very acidic.
  • Acid damages the tooth surface and can lead to tooth decay.
  • Limit these drinks or avoid them completely if possible.
  • Choose tap water instead.

How much is too much? The World Health Organization says adults should limit their added sugar to no more than 6 teaspoons per day for best health. (1 teaspoon sugar = approx 4 grams) There are 6 teaspoons of sugar in just one glass (240mL) of regular Cola!

A 600mL bottle of soft drink contains up to 16 teaspoons of sugar.

Changing your drinking habits

Drink plenty of tap water

  • Most of Victoria’s tap water has fluoride in it.
  • Fluoride helps to protect teeth from tooth decay.
  • Drinking water can help to make saliva, which also helps to protect against tooth decay.
  • Water helps to keep the mouth feeling moist and comfortable.

Choose whole fruit over fruit juice

  • While fruit juice has useful nutrients, it can also add a lot of sugar to the diet when taken away from the rest of the fruit. For example, a person is unlikely to eat four whole oranges, but could quite easily drink the sugar from four oranges as one glass of orange juice.
  • Eating whole fruits and vegetables is the best choice.

Plain dairy is good for teeth

  • Plain milk, yoghurt, cheese (and/or suitable alternatives) provide calcium and other minerals which are good for teeth.
  • Avoid flavoured milks and yoghurts which can contain added sugars.
  • The Australian Dietary Guidelines say that low-fat dairy is best for most adults.

Sugar-sweetened drinks are the largest source of sugars in the Australian diet. Find out how many teaspoons of sugar are hiding in sweet drinks at www.rethinksugarydrink.org.au

Snacking throughout the day

Snacking throughout the day can damage teeth

  • Every time we eat and drink, bacteria in the mouth make acid which damages tooth surfaces.
  • The more times we eat/drink the more ‘acid attacks’ that can lead to tooth decay.
  • Try to limit snacks and choose tooth-friendly snacks such as vegetables, fruit, plain cheese or yoghurt, nuts and seeds.

If you have sugary foods, try to have them with a main meal

  • Every time you have sugary food and drinks, teeth can get damaged.
  • If you eat sweet foods with a main meal, there is more saliva to wash sugars out of the mouth and repair damage.
  • Drink plenty of tap water and brush teeth afterwards if possible.
  • Try to choose healthy snacks such as vegetables, fruits, nuts and plain cheese or yoghurt, nuts and seeds.

What can you swap? Check out the sugar content of popular breakfasts and see some healthier options at www.sugarbyhalf.com