Most days of the week, I field questions about what people should or should not be eating. Is coffee bad for my teeth? Do sticky things cause more cavities? What should I not eat? The short answers to these questions are no, yes, and eat whatever you want. Just be careful; read on.
Drinking 3-4 cups of coffee a day has been shown to have a wealth of potential health benefits from helping prevent dementia and depression to lowering risk of Type II diabetes. Coffee is not inherently bad for your teeth; the main issues are that it stains, which is harmless but undesirable, and that many people add sweeteners to their coffee. Coffee's pH is not significantly different from most unsweetened beverages. Sipping black coffee all day is fine from a dental health standpoint. Sipping coffee with added sugar and/or milk all day will have similar effects to drinking soda or juice all day- it continuously lowers the pH of them mouth and introduces food for the mouth's bacteria to create decay. If you can't drink your coffee black, try an artificial sweetener, or try to limit consumption to around meal times as a treat.
Foods that stick to your teeth tend to hang out in your mouth longer that those that do not. For example, if you have a caramel, little bits may stay stuck in between your teeth for an extended time while the saliva dissolves them; chocolate on the other hand, breaks down much faster, leaving the mouth sooner and allowing the pH of the saliva to return to the mouth to a healthy state. Sticky foods are not just limited to candies however- dried fruits can stick around for a while too, feeding the mouth's normal bacteria. It's not that you can't have candies, but if you have a choice, your dentist would prefer that you pick chocolate;-)
The only things I routinely tell people not to put in their mouths are non-food items: fishing line, price tags, metal hangers, flashlights, etc. Teeth are tools, but only for chewing. The only food I have told someone not to eat at all was to a lady who was eating lemons and holding them in her front teeth- the acid from the lemons had eroded all of her enamel and left her six front teeth yellowish and chipped. She needed a lot of work to help fix that seemingly harmless habit.
I won't tell my patients not to eat popcorn, but I see so many popcorn-related emergencies that I won't eat it myself- do with that what you will!
Take care everyone,