15 Foods That Cause Tooth Pain

The foods you eat can damage your dental enamel and cause tooth pain. Here are 15 foods to avoid, plus strategies to heal sensitive teeth.

Foods that cause tooth pain - The Grow Network

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

Which Foods Cause Tooth Pain?

Sharon had tooth pain that wouldn’t go away, so she went to the dentist. Her dentist asked if she had been indulging in the tomato harvest. Sharon smiled and nodded her head. The dentist told her that tomatoes are one of those foods that can erode the enamel of your teeth and cause tooth pain or sensitivity.

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Nobody looks forward to his or her semi-annual visit to the dentist. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to lower your chances of needing expensive dental work with some eating strategies?

How Food Damages Your Teeth

There are two main food ingredients that harm your pearly whites: sugar and acid.


The millions of bacteria already in your mouth are super-happy when you eat sugars, especially sucrose (table sugar). The bacteria feast on plaque buildup and produce lactic acid, which erodes tooth enamel—and can cause tooth pain. Sucrose is the worst form of sugar because it sticks to teeth making it (and the bacteria) difficult to remove even with brushing.


Acidic foods, including some fruit, eat away at the tooth enamel and directly break down your teeth. In this case, the bacteria aren’t necessarily producing acid and causing tooth decay.

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Wash away natural acids by drinking water. Ironically, brushing after consuming acidic foods or beverages causes more damage. Teeth are porous and acid softens them. If you brush immediately afterward, it breaks down the enamel even further. After consuming acidic foods, rinse your mouth with water and wait at least an hour before brushing.

If you want to keep your teeth in good shape, there are a lot of foods to avoid or consume in moderation.

Avoid These Foods for Tooth Pain Relief

#1. Soda

No surprise here. Soda is one of the top foods to avoid for sensitive teeth. There are two ingredients in soda that irritate teeth and cause tooth pain: sugar and acid. It’s a double whammy.

#2. Ice Cream

Sad, but true. Ice cream is cold, and it has sugar that causes teeth to be even more sensitive. People who have sensitive teeth lack the enamel layer that acts as a protective barrier.

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#3. Coffee

Coffee is also a double whammy. Coffee is a hot food, which can cause your teeth to hurt. The caffeine in coffee is also very acidic, especially when consumed in large amounts, which can make your tooth pain even worse. You’ll want to limit your consumption.

#4. Hard Candy and Cough Drops

Lollipop, peppermints, and cough drops. Oh, my! When you have sensitive teeth, skip the hard candy and cough drops. They are full of sugar and could also cause teeth to chip or break.

#5. Citrus Fruits

Pineapple, grapefruit, oranges, lemons, and limes are all highly acidic fruits. The acid makes your teeth more sensitive because it eats away the tooth enamel. While highly nutritious, eating these fruits and drinking the fruit juice is a cause of tooth sensitivity and pain. Moderation is key with citrus fruits.

#6. Tomatoes and Tomato-based Pasta Sauces

When the tomato harvest is in full swing, many dentists report higher instances of tooth pain. Although tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, they’re also highly acidic.

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Note that tomato sauce, as well as raw tomatoes, trigger tooth sensitivity. Again, moderation is key!

#7.  Sticky Candy

Toffee, caramel, gummy bears, and licorice are especially bad for people with tooth sensitivity. They are full of sugar and stick to your teeth. Extremely sweet and sticky foods stimulate the nerves in the dentin, the layer below the enamel. This is what causes the pain.

#8. Dried Fruits

Dried fruit can cause tooth pain (The Grow Network)

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

There are several sticky foods—such as raisins, figs, and dried apricots—that are packed with nutrition but can also cause tooth sensitivity. Dried fruits and fruit leathers are high in sugar and can do a number on your teeth. The sugar in the fruit stays on your teeth and feeds plaque bacteria. Rinse your mouth with water right after consuming dried fruit and brush your teeth about an hour afterward.

#9. Pickles

The vinegar used to make pickles is highly acidic. Pickles are often made with sugar, as well. While the cucumbers are healthy, the brine damages your teeth. Drinking water with your meal helps wash away acid and sugar, but remember to brush an hour later.

#10. Wine

Alcohol causes a dry mouth, which reduces your saliva production. The sugars are deposited on your teeth and cause tooth pain.

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White wine and sweeter reds do the most damage. If you have sensitive teeth, consume wine in moderation. (You may also want to look into sugar-free wines like these.)

#11. Potato Chips

Oh, these crunchy, salty flats of addiction. The texture of chips, which gets gummy as you chew, tends to linger in your mouth and get stuck in the biting surface of your teeth. No one can eat just one, so it is a non-stop snack of acid production. The acid-producing bacteria indulge in your snack and up your risk of tooth decay.

#12. White Bread

There are a number of reasons why refined carbohydrates, like sandwich bread, aren’t good for you. For one, they are full of simple sugars that quickly dissolve in your mouth. As you chew it, white bread gets a gummy consistency. This means those sticky particles get trapped on the biting surface and in between your teeth. The dissolving sugars cause a surge of acid that erodes tooth enamel and can cause tooth pain.

#13. Sports Drinks

Isn’t a sports drink a nutritious rehydrator after your morning workout? Nope! Sports drinks are packed with sugar and acid. Cavities, erosion, and tooth sensitivity are heightened because we tend to swish these drinks around our mouth to rehydrate.

#14. Vinegar

Vinegar is in a variety of foods from salad dressings to sauces. However, vinegar can trigger tooth decay.

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There is a bit of good news: Lettuce combats the damaging effects of vinegar, so keep enjoying your favorite balsamic vinaigrette on your salad.

#15. Apples

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but the acid in this fruit may have you at the dentist. Apples are full of nutrition, but they are high in acid and surprisingly hard on your enamel. Eating apples is fine, but be sure to rinse your mouth with water shortly after, and brush your teeth an hour later.

Taking Care of Your Tooth Enamel

If you have sensitive teeth, it’s possible that some of your enamel has worn away. To prevent further damage, eat acidic and sugary foods in moderation. Or, if your teeth are extra-sensitive, avoid these foods for a while.

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Don’t Brush Too Hard

If you brush your teeth with a heavy hand, stop! You’re taking off more than just plaque. Side-to-side brushing right at the gumline takes your enamel away faster. Use a soft-bristled brush and work at a 45-degree angle to your gum to keep enamel clean and strong.

Choose Your Snacks Wisely

Your saliva is a natural way to deal with acid, plaque, and harmful bacteria. Certain treats moisten your mouth and fight acid and bacteria that eat away at your tooth enamel:

  • Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Plain yogurt

Other strategies include drinking green or black tea and chewing xylitol gum.

Green tea is good for tooth health - The Grow Network

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Also be sure to rinse your mouth with water after consuming an acidic food. And wait an hour or so before you brush your teeth.

Read more about how to care for your teeth naturally here.

If you have sensitive teeth, and the symptoms last for more than a few weeks, be sure to talk to your dentist. Sensitive teeth may be a sign of a cavity that needs to be treated.

What Do You Think?

Do you have tooth pain due to eating acidic foods? Tell us your story in the comments below. We’re all here to help each other.


This is an updated version of an article that was originally published on September 14, 2017.

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