As a dentist, I’ve treated more dental emergencies caused by one of the 5 common foods that can crack your teeth than I can count. I’ve heard it so often: “I was just eating some french bread when suddenly a sharp piece of tooth was slicing into my tongue!”
There are certain foods that have bragging rights for wreaking dental disaster. It’s important for you to eat them with a great amount of care. Here is my list of the 5 common foods that can crack your teeth:
The 5 Common Foods That Can Crack Your Teeth
Innocent enough in its overall fluffy and puffy state and low in calories to boot, popcorn is the quintessential tooth cracker. You sit in a movie theater or on your sofa with a bowl of freshly popped goodness resting in your lap. You slowly bring the tasty morsels to your mouth. You savor the deliciousness. But, as the level of popcorn lowers and your attention is distracted you chomp down on an un-popped kernel and experience why popcorn is at the top of the list of common foods that can crack your teeth.
Teeth often break when we bite down on something we expect to be soft but instead encounter something unexpectedly hard. The force of the impact overcomes the integrity of one of our teeth. In my practice, I frequently see patients with perfectly healthy teeth but one split in half due to a wayward popcorn kernel. So the lesson here is: you don’t have to give up popcorn – but take your time while eating it.
Think about what you’re shoveling into your mouth!
2. OLIVE PITS
A close second to popcorn in my list of the 5 common foods that can crack your teeth is the wayward olive pit. The unexpected presence of an olive pit can be caused by poor food processing, sloppy meal preparation or a failure to recognize that the olive to be consumed is, in fact, not pitted.
Olive pits can break teeth in the same manner that popcorn kernels do their dental damage. You unexpectedly chomp down on something hard (the pit) when only softness was anticipated (the olive meat). Tip: Make sure your olives have pimentos – not pits.
3. BAGUETTES, DUTCH PRETZELS, BISCOTTI
Hard and crunchy foods are definitely appealing – but they are among the top common foods that can crack your teeth. The question is this: Which is harder? Your teeth? Or what you are going to crunch with your teeth? Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in your body but it is also the most brittle.
When you eat hard and crunchy foods such as baguettes (love that crust!), dutch pretzels (yum), or biscotti (don’t get me started!) make sure you take small bites after an initial exploratory nibble.
Hard Candy: Frozen Milky Way bars, Jawbreakers, Peanut Brittle, rock candy…do I need to say more? These rock-hard morsels of sweetness were the cravings of my childhood – and perhaps harbingers of my (as yet unknown) career path.
And more insidious and damaging than the very obvious teeth-cracking confections mentioned above, are Nibs, sour balls, lemon drops, Tootsie Roll Pops, Jolly Ranchers, Gobstoppers and many more popular sucking candies. Yes, sucking candies are on the list of common foods that can crack your teeth.
The operative word on these delights is sucking – as in allowing them to linger languishly in your mouth as they slowly dissolve and release their sweet essences. Is it really possible for any candy lover to suck on a Tootsie Roll Pop without biting it to get at the chewy chocolate center? I doubt it. I treat a lot of broken teeth in the mouths of people who just couldn’t help themselves – they had to bit down.
Sticky, gooey candy: Of course, I can’t discuss tooth-breaking candy without mentioning those gooey offenders. Starburst, caramel, taffy, jellybeans and my all-time favorite, Mary Janes are big offenders. Chewy candies have an unparalleled ability to engulf dental work and yank it out.
Any tooth with a large restoration or filling is structurally compromised. That makes it more susceptible to fracture when being challenged by something hard and dense. I get a kick out of patients who come to my office with their crown or filling carefully gift-wrapped in tissue and smothered or encased in a fluorescent-colored sticky glob of goo.
Note: If temptation gets the better of you and a sticky mishap does occur, do not wrap your dental restoration in a tissue. Quite a few of my patients have thrown out their crowns because they thought what they were throwing out was just a wad of tissues.
5. FOOD PACKAGING
Imagine you‘re on the go and you get a bit hungry. So, you pick up a little snack. Maybe a bag of peanuts or a protein bar. Ugh, you can’t get the wrap undone! And you don’t have a scissor or knife handy, of course. In that moment of absolute determination to get the darn thing open you decide to use your teeth. And disaster strikes!
Just last week I saw a patient who (ironically) tried to bite open a pack of dental stimulators and subsequently broke a tooth! Listen, your teeth are designed for incising, biting and chewing food – not to be a replacement for a Swiss Army Knife!
Any tooth can crack when it encounters something unexpectedly hard and dense. And teeth that have large restorations or fillings are especially susceptible to fracture.
I hope this article will make you think twice the next time you treat yourself to the 5 common foods that can crack your teeth.
Remember, before you bite into that watermelon Jolly Rancher, ask yourself…is it worth it?
DISCLAIMER: The advice I offer in response to your questions is intended to be informational only and generic in nature. Namely, I am in no way offering a definitive diagnosis or specific treatment recommendations for your particular situation. My intent is solely educational and my responses to your actual questions serve as springboard to discussion of a variety of dental topics that come up in day-to-day dental practice. Any advice offered is no substitute for proper evaluation and care by a qualified dentist.
You can add caramelized popcorn such as Crunch and Munch to the list. Just a few days ago I broke my #3 CEREC crown, lingual side chewing on a large piece. I just wasn’t thinking because I’ve given up many of these tasty offenders due to having three crowns now. The crown in question was 17 years old and in fact my dentist said on one side the material was paper thin! He was impressed that it lasted as long as it did. Yes, even us with excellent dental habits fall down at times. $1,245 the total cost no no insurance….ouch! I get my permanent crown in a couple of weeks. From now it’s cheese puffs!!
Biscottis are meant to be dipped in a warm liquid before you eat them, to soften them up. Are there really people who just eat them hard??
Michael Sinkin says
I didn’t know that. But some people like to munch and crunch at the same time with the unfortunate crack resulting. Thanks, Danielle.
pj mann says
Beef Jerky and Turkey Jerky! Terrible. My molar has split in half
Jerky can certainly wreak havoc on A tooth, especially one that has large fillings. Jerky has a density to it that can cleave off a weakened cusp and a chewiness that can pull out that which has been broken. You might want to rethink what or at least how you chomp on your snacks. Good luck with your molar.
Kim rundquist says
Ate salad with critons and fragnents of upper teeth chipped.help.just had upper tooth worked on last month
Michael Sinkin says
Those croutons can certainly pack a crunch. Time to make a dental appointment!
Dr.Aditi Aggarwal says
Very relatable. A lot of my patients come to me with broken teeth because of carelessly biting into popcorn kernels and other stuff.
This article should serve as an example to others to take their oral health seriously.
Just broke my tooth on a popcorn kernel. I’ve done it before. I don’t understand how we forget things like this and do stupid stuff over and over!
Michael Sinkin says
Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.