Why Jelly Is Bad For Your Teeth

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Medically reviewed by Othman Lahmaydi, RDH

There’s nothing quite as good or as nostalgic as a delicious, homemade peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  These sandwiches may not be a luxury, but they transport you back to those simple and carefree days.  However, these sandwiches may make your dentist grimace during your next visit. 

The sticky texture and sugar-loaded content of jelly can contribute to plaque buildup, tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath. To help prevent these effects, you can drink water while you eat jelly and after, chew sugar-free gum after, and/or brush your teeth.

No matter how delicious jelly delicacies may sound, you should try to avoid them. Put your precious teeth first! Jelly is actually one of the top twelve dentists recommended foods to avoid in order to protect your oral health. Let’s take a deeper look at why that is and what you can do about it.

The Effect Jelly Has on Your Teeth

Closeup on happy woman eating orange jam

Normale, every-day Jelly (like Smucker’s Grape Jelly, on Amazon) contains high levels of sugar and/or high-fructose corn syrup. It is also sticky in texture, which can wreak havoc on your teeth. When jellies and jams are made, most of the water is removed leaving behind mostly sugar. 

The thick mixture may be delicious, but it causes and exacerbates many oral health concerns, such as tooth decay, cavities, plaque buildup, gum disease, and bad breath:

  • Plaque Buildup: The sugar content in jelly can cause a film to build up in your mouth after eating these foods, which can leave your teeth feeling covered in sugar. This can eventually cause plaque buildup, which can, in turn, stimulate gum disease, tooth decay, and cavities.  
  • Tooth Decay: Most of the time, jelly is placed on a high-carb food item, like bread, bagels, donuts, or other pastries. When these foods are eaten, the mixture of bread and jelly gets stuck in the back of the mouth and grows more bacteria. Bacteria build up, causing plaque, which leads to cavities and tooth decay.

    Tooth decay is likely when the teeth stay coated in sugar and sticky films for a long period of time.
  • Gum Disease: Although the high-sugar content in most jellies is detrimental to your health, the sticky texture also poses a problem to your gums. Sticky substances often linger in the nooks and crannies of your mouth, which give them more time to cause issues like gum disease.

    Gum disease is indicated by red, swollen, or even bloody gums around the teeth.
  • Bad Breath: When bacteria sits in your mouth, it can also lead to foul odors being released. Bad breath may take time to develop and notice, but it can be a nasty, lingering effect of eating sticky, sugary jellies.

How to Prevent Jelly from Damaging Your Teeth

Sometimes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch or a quick jelly donut for breakfast may be the only options for your busy day. But when you eat these jelly-filled foods, you should take the time to prevent tooth damage.  

There are a few preventative measures you can take after eating jelly, including the following:

  1. Drink plenty of water as you eat jelly. Water will remove any residue from your mouth as you eat, preventing plaque and sugary films from developing on your teeth. It keeps your mouth clean and removes any unwanted sugar from your mouth.
  2. Opt for sugar-free gum after eating. Chewing a piece of sugar-free gum after you eat sticky, sugary foods can also stimulate the removal of sugary residue from your mouth.  
  3. If possible, brush your teeth. Brushing your teeth is the best way to prevent any issues and boost your oral health after eating sugary foods. This will prevent cavities, remove plaque buildup, boost fresh breath, and prevent gum disease.
  4. Schedule routine dentist appointments. Do not skip out on your routine teeth cleaning appointments with your dentist. Professionals will be able to target any plaque buildup or issues before they worsen, which can prevent cavities, gum disease, and tooth decay.

Is It Safe to Brush Your Teeth After Eating Jelly?

Portrait of smiling young housewife eating orange jam

Brushing your teeth after eating sugary, sticky jellies is not only safe, but recommended by dentists. To remove the sticky residue and prevent plaque buildup after eating jelly sandwiches, jelly donuts, or any other jelly products, you should brush your teeth soon after consuming these foods. 

By brushing your teeth, you remove any excess residue, sugary films, and foul odors from building up on your teeth.  

To prioritize your oral health, you should keep a toothbrush and toothpaste at work or in your purse, car, or briefcase. This simple addition to your day can prevent painful cavities, expensive dentist bills, and unsightly tooth issues.  

If you cannot brush your teeth after eating jelly foods, it is recommended to chew sugar-free gum to stimulate the removal of plaque and sugar foods. This will also aide in boosting fresh breath after your meal.

No Sugar Added Jelly Alternatives

If you really love the taste of jelly and don’t want to remove it from your diet, there are a few healthier alternatives to try. These might not live up to the high standards of classic jelly, since they often need to compromise a bit on taste and texture, but they will still satisfy that craving. 

Many jelly brands offer No Sugar Added jellies that are much better for not only your nutrition, but also your oral health. There are also plenty of snacks and spreads that aren’t jelly but might still satisfy your cravings.

Substitutions to Try:

These substitutions can offer you the same sweet taste in your foods without the oral health issues of sticky jelly or jams full of sugar.

Jelly may be a simple and nostalgic way to sweeten your foods, but it can be detrimental to your oral health if you do not take the right measures to protect your teeth. 

To prevent tooth decay, cavities, and plaque buildup, it is important to know how to promote healthy and mindful snacking when it comes to foods with jelly.  It may be time to consider healthier habits and substitutions to your breakfast and lunch.

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