Dental Health: Top Causes Of Tooth Decay & What To Do About It

Caring for our teeth and looking out for our dental health is something most of us are in the habit of doing on a daily basis with brushing, flossing and rinsing. However, proper tooth care and oral hygiene is more than just about regular cleaning and disinfecting. It also helps to understand how diet plays a role in oral health and what the key risks are in regards to what causes tooth decay.

With increased levels of tooth decay and other issues that affect the gums and mouth, being more conscious of how best to look after our teeth and oral hygiene is more important now than ever. In fact, in recent decades, the amount of potential threats to our dental health, from the foods we eat and especially the beverages we drink have become of increasing concern.

A visit to the dentist can be uncomfortable, not just when you're in the chair but also to your bank account afterwards! So, like with most things, prevention is definitely better than cure...

Dental Health: Top Causes Of Tooth Decay Infographic

Top Causes of Tooth Decay & Dental Problems

Acid is the direct cause of tooth decay, and the amount of acid exposure that our teeth experience is primarily related to what you eat and drink.  Acids come into contact wit our teeth from a number of sources. 

1. Acidic foods and (especially) beverages.  Strong acids are often added to food and beverage products to increase shelf stability.  When these strong acids come into contact with the teeth, they can cause tooth decay.

2. Sugar. Sugar itself is not actually harmful to our teeth.  The bacteria in our mouths use the sugar in our food and drinks for energy, creating acidic waste as the byproduct of their metabolism.  This acidic waste is what causes tooth decay. 

3. Acid Reflux.  When Stomach acid travels up through the esophagus, it can come into contact with the teeth causing acid erosion.


The modern Western diet typically contains a lot of stuff that can promote tooth decay. First and foremost, "junk food" and many big-brand bottled beverages. These mass-produced and heavily processed consumer products are more often than not full of acidic substances that erode teeth.  

If you look on the shelves of your local grocery store and check the ingredients, you will see that many, if not most, are loaded with high levels of processed carbohydrates such as sucrose (refined sugars), as well as starch, plus a whole host of other highly acidogenic chemicals and preservatives. The chemical structure of Sucrose makes it especially favorable for oral bacteria to build an acid-forming biofilm on the teeth, leading to tooth decay.

These acidic types of beverages and foods can not only wreak havoc on your teeth but also be detrimental to your overall health. An acidic environment also promotes growth of acid forming bacteria. In fact, research indicates that low pH (acid) is the primary determinant of erosive potential in terms of dental health!

Learn More: Alkaline Versus Acidic: What is the difference & effect on your body?

Aside from the lack of natural nutrition and micronutrients in these processed foods, the big problem is that their low pH actually encourages the growth of germs (bacteria) that specifically cause gum disease and lead to tooth decay.

How come?


What is plaque?

Plaque is a thin, invisible, layer of bacteria and other matter over the surface of your teeth. Bacteria play a role in forming this plaque and then live in it.  When sugars or starches meet this plaque, bacteria turn the sugars into acids. Within about 20 minutes, the acid formed by acidogenic bacteria reached a level that causes irreversible damage to the teeth.  It is the bacteria in dental plaque that metabolize the carbohydrates. The waste product of this metabolic activity is acid, and it is these acids that are harmful for the teeth. 

One or two such assaults are pretty harmless; however, if this repeated again and again over time, then the hard enamel on the outside of teeth deteriorates, leading to tooth decay.

That's not all, an inflammatory response caused by the bacteria in plaque leads to problems with the gums and bones, which can also lead to other systemic health problems in some people.

Here are the top culprits that promote plaque and subsequent tooth decay:

Carbonated Soda, Energy & Sports Drinks

Hard to miss, most big-brand highly promoted and advertised carbonated soft drinks are packed full of sugar. What's more, the majority of them also contain phosphoric and citric acids that are well-known to erode tooth enamel over time.   

By the same token, energy and sports drinks are also formulated with high sugar and acidity content. Unfortunately, the hydration, endurance and recovery-boosting benefits they provide to athletes and sports people are outweighed by the negative impacts on the body and teeth! 

Learn More: Exercise & Sports Hydration: How Water, Electrolytes & Loading Boost Peak Performance

Even many bottled and packaged fruit "juices" and drinks can also be deceptively high in acidity due to added sucrose, sugar and preservatives to increase shelf life. This despite them often claiming to be "natural".

Candy & Sweetened Foods

It is not surprising that such food is high on this list. Like their bottled beverage cousins, these sweet treats are also full of refined sugar and highly acidic. 

Starchy Foods

Food that gets trapped between your teeth is an issue when it comes to tooth decay. Soft bread, potato chips and other such starchy foods are likely to do just this. Add sugar into the mix and it's even more of a recipe for increased risk of tooth decay!

Top Tips, Plant-Based Foods & Natural Alternatives For Teeth & Oral Health


You probably know that hydration is essential to your health, but aside from just drinking water to replenish your body and help balance pH levels, it can also help keep your mouth and teeth healthy. 

Learn MoreHow To Boost Hydration Naturally & Sustain It All Day

It may not always be possible to brush your teeth after a meal or snack. Instead of a wash, just rinse the mouth with water after eating for the removal of food on or between teeth.

You can also make your own natural mouth rinse by adding in a teaspoon or two of natural salt, like Himalayan Pink Salt, to your water. You can then use this to gargle with and swirl around your mouth before spitting out.

Learn MoreHealth Benefits of Himalayan Pink Salt & Why To Add It To Your Diet

Many plant-based foods are not only alkaline (high pH) in nature, but also contain high amounts of certain essential minerals and vitamins good for promoting oral health:

Calcium helps make teeth and bones stronger.

  • Leafy greens
  • Almonds
  • Tofu

Foods that are rich in phosphorus help strengthening the teeth.

  • Beans
  • Seeds
  • Nuts 

Vitamin C is great for gum health

  • Citrus fruits
  • Broccoli
  • Tomato
  • Spinach


There is an old saying that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, it would be just as true to replace the word doctor with dentist. Apples clean teeth and as a bonus, they freshen the breath.

Celery and carrots have similar benefits, with the extra benefit of plaque removal.

Learn MorePlant-Based Nutrition: Key Foods & Dietary Tips For Health & Wellness

Natural Dental Care, Sweeteners & Remedies Infographic

Top Natural Sweeteners & Remedies For Dental Health & Tooth Care

In addition to the plethora of healthy and tooth-friendly foods nature offers, there are also some great natural sweeteners and home remedies that can also help in regards to dental health and the prevention of tooth decay:


Stevia is an ever-increasingly popular all-natural sweetener and for good reason. It has the benefit of not producing lactic acid that is a common cause of tooth decay.

Monk Fruit

Although it might not be as well-known as stevia, monk fruit is a fantastic zero calorie, zero carb natural plant-based sugar substitute that also contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

Coconut Oil

A very beneficial ingredient of coconut oil is lauric acid, which can prevent the build-up of plaque, reduce bacteria in the mouth and inflammation of the gums.

Clove Oil

Used traditionally for centuries in Indian and Chinese medicine, clove oil thanks to its eugenol content, has a numbing effect on the gums. This makes it an effective natural anesthetic for tooth aches. Additionally, it also has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties that make it great for fighting against plaque and other oral infections.

Learn More5 Alkaline Superfoods & Herbs That Boost Your Immune System

Sodium Bicarbonate

This is the baking powder that is used in cooking. Although it's not a good idea to use raw baking powder directly on your teeth, there is research that indicates that toothpaste containing it is good at fighting decay as well as providing other benefits.

Learn MoreNatural Alkaline Minerals: Health Benefits Of Phosphate, Bicarbonate & Essential Minerals

Phenoh Sugar-Free Alkaline Drink Mixes 

A study sponsored by the Journal of the American Dental Association tested 379 different types of bottled beverages from all non-dairy categories. The results were shocking! The study concluded that of the drink products tested, 93% were highly acidic and consequently erosive to teeth!

Our co-founder is a dental student who turned entrepreneur. Passionate about both dental health and peak performance sport, he created Phenoh, a natural, healthy and tooth-friendly solution to the high sugar, highly acidic bottled beverage industry.

Learn More: Our Story

Phenoh natural alkaline drink mixes are not only great for hydration but thanks to their non-acidic formulation, are also all good for teeth and gentle on the stomach. They also help your body maintain its essential pH balance and perform at its best thanks to natural superfood ingredients, as well as Bicarbonate, Himalayan Pink Salt, plus Vitamin C, D + Zinc.

What's more, to really give you something to smile about, all varieties are naturally sweetened with organic monk fruit so are 100% free of sugar and other chemical nasties! You can feel good drinking Phenoh, knowing that it won't promote tooth decay or other dental problems.

Phenoh Sugar-Free Alkaline Beverage Mixes 

We've created a range of unique blends specially formulated for the times when your body needs them most:

Not sure where to start?  Grab our Complete Package and try them out for yourself...


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