Cariogenic versus cariostatic foods

Cavities formation and /or prevention depends largely upon the pH of the mouth. Certain foods can help to maintain the pH such that  growth of micro-organisms is not favored (near neural -pH 6.7-7.3) while some other foods may reduce the pH to a level that is favorable for growth of bacteria (pH 4.3 – 5). Based on this , foods are categorized as cariogenic- those that cause cavities and cariostatic – those that stop/prevent cavity formation.

Cariogenic  food contain fermentable carbohydrates that can cause a decrease in salivary pH to <5.5 and demineralization when in contact with microorganisms in the mouth; promoting caries development

  • Promote formation of caries
  • Fermentable carbohydrates, those that can be broken down by salivary amylase
  • Result in lower mouth pH
  • Include crackers, chips, pretzels, cereals, breads, fruits, sugars, sweets, desserts

Cariostatic food are not metabolized by microorganisms in plaque to cause a drop in salivary pH to <5.5

  • Foods that do not contribute to decay
  • Do not cause a drop in salivary pH
  • Includes protein foods, eggs, fish, meat and poultry; most vegetables, fats, sugarless gums

Other Factors that Affect Cariogenicity of food

  • Consistency: Liquids are cleared quickly while sticky foods remain on the teeth
  • Meal frequency: frequent meals and snacks increase duration of exposure
  • Food form: liquid, solid, slowly dissolving
  • Sequence of eating: cheese or milk at the end of the meal decrease the cariogenicity of the meal

Be aware of what you eat and drink:

  • Avoid snacking on sugary or acidic foods and drinks between meals. Some foods like muesli and fruit bars might seem healthy, however if they are sugary or have a sticky texture, they may increase your risk of tooth decay
  • Opt for safe snacks such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and cheese
  • Minimize the acid exposure to your teeth by using a straw when drinking soft drinks, sports drinks and fruit juice
  • Eating calcium rich foods like milk, cheese and yogurt can help to neutralise acids and protect your teeth
  • Drink plenty of fluoridated water. This maintains healthy saliva and the fluoride helps strengthen tooth enamel.
  • Chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva after meals – saliva neutralises acids that cause decay

Maintain good oral hygiene habits:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes using a fluoride toothpaste. This can reduce your risk of decay by 25%. But, note that children under 2 years need fluoride free toothpaste
  • Floss your teeth daily
  • Visit your dentist regularly for a professional clean and general check-up
  • If you live in an area that does not fluoridate tap water or you don’t drink fluoridated water, talk to your dentist about fluoride treatments which can help prevent tooth decay


Click to access links-between-oral-health-and-general-health-the-case-for-action.pdf


Author: drpoojachhawcharia

Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.

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