Why Ice Cream Is Bad For Your Teeth

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Medically reviewed by Othman Lahmaydi, RDH

Who doesn’t love a good scoop of ice cream on a hot summer’s day? It’s hard to resist this sugary treat, but it can also do some pretty severe damage to your precious pearly whites, so you need to be careful about your ice cream consumption.

Due to its high sugar content, ice cream can contribute to tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease. To prevent these issues, eat ice cream in moderation, avoid sticky toppings, drink water before and after, and brush your teeth at least 30 minutes later.

Don’t worry, you can still have ice cream every now and then. But there are certain steps to take to make sure it’s not causing too much damage to your teeth. Let’s take a look at why ice cream is bad for teeth and which precautions you can take to limit the negative effects.

How Does Ice Cream Affect Your Teeth?

Close up of pretty tourist girl eating traditional gelato italian ice cream

The main issue with ice cream is all the sugar it contains. This has a direct, negative impact on your teeth. It can cause the problems like tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease.

Any food that contains lots of sugar, like ice cream, can harm the enamel of your teeth. Sweet toppings don’t help either.

The wide range of toppings tends to add to the sugar intake and some gooier ones, like caramel or gummy bears, can get stuck in your mouth. Those foods can wind up staying there for a long time, increasing the risk of tooth decay and cavities.

Does this mean you should never have ice cream? No! But when consuming ice cream, do so in moderation and limit the toppings.

 Furthermore, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of damage to your teeth.

How Can You Eat Ice Cream Without Harming Your Teeth?

While ice cream can easily damage your teeth, there are ways you can consume it that will limit or reduce the chances of harm:

  • Eat ice cream in moderation and try to coordinate ice cream consumption with a meal, since your mouth will already be in a sensitive state from the other foods consumed.
  • Drink water before and after having ice cream. This will rinse some of the sugar away.
  • Consume low-fat or sugar-free ice cream.
  • Stick to plain flavors rather than ones with chocolate chunks, candy, and other similar items.
  • Limit toppings and avoid sticky ones like caramel.
  • Brush your teeth at least 30 minutes after eating ice cream to remove the sugar and debris from your mouth.

Why Shouldn’t You Brush Immediately After Eating Ice Cream?

You should brush your teeth after eating ice cream. However, the best course of action is to wait at least 30 minutes and then brush. If you brush right after eating the ice cream, the enamel will still be weak from initial exposure to sugar.

Brushing your teeth will also help prevent cavities and tooth decay. Since cavities develop from the teeth’s enamel or outer surface being destroyed, removing the sugar that sits there will reduce the chances of a cavity developing.

If you don’t have a toothbrush handy after eating ice cream, rinse with water or mouthwash. This helps to wash away sugars left on your teeth and gums.

Can You Eat Ice Cream if You Have a Recent Filling?

Portrait of a beautiful young woman eating ice cream

Yes, you can eat ice cream after you get a filling, but it’s not recommended. You should stay away from having ice cream for a few days to a week.

This is because the nerve of the tooth can be irritated by the drilling process and needs time to settle after being worked on.

Also, the filling can expand and shrink as temperatures shift dramatically, causing microscopic stresses inside the tooth. Therefore, eating ice cream after a filling can cause you more discomfort than it normally would.

Also, once you get a cavity filled, your mouth is more susceptible to tooth decay. Having ice cream can make this worse and cause further damage, such as additional cavities.

Hard foods, sticky foods, and toppings should be avoided too. Additionally, it is best not to chew gum. Instead, consume soft, healthy foods such as soup that is lukewarm or a fruit smoothie that’s not too cold. Good fruits to have include bananas, strawberries, and blueberries.

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