By Dr Nigel Carter OBE

As a nation, we might rejoice when the summer season comes around, yet millions of holiday-makers and picnic-goers could be putting their oral health at greater risk with their summer diet.

Consuming too many acidic foods, as well as eating more sugary foods and drinks, traditionally associated with summer-time and holidays, can potentially increase the risk of dental erosion and tooth decay.

Risks of dental erosion and tooth decay are also increased during the holiday season as eating-habits and patterns often change. It is more likely that normal meal-times are disrupted during the holidays and snacking and grazing increases, which can cause multiple-attacks on teeth throughout the day.

Dental erosion is the loss of tooth enamel caused by acid attacks from foods and drinks. Many holiday foods like vinaigrettes, olives, red wine and ciders are very acidic. Enamel is the hard, protective coating of the tooth, and if it is worn away, the dentine underneath becomes exposed and teeth can look discoloured and become sensitive.

Tooth decay happens when sugar reacts with the bacteria in plaque. Sugars from foods like ice-cream, seaside rock and fizzy drinks stimulate the formation of acids that attack the teeth and destroy the enamel. Tooth decay causes cavities and results in the need for fillings.

The habit of snacking and grazing in between meals is one that continues to creep into society. What people do not realise is every time you eat or drink anything sugary, your teeth are under acid attack for up to one hour.

Eating and drinking naturally weakens the enamel on your teeth. The Foundation recommends eating three square meals a day instead of having seven to ten ‘snack attacks’. If you do snack between meals, choose foods and drinks that do not contain sugar, limiting the amount of time your mouth is at risk.

Snacking throughout the day might be easy and convenient when on holiday, particularly if you have young children, but the frequency of doing so can be harmful to their teeth and have lasting implications. These foods and drinks are potentially OK in moderation, but they should be kept to mealtimes only.

Whilst sugary foods and drinks are easy to identify, acidic foods and drinks that can increase the risk of dental erosion are not always easy to recognise. To help you make the right decisions this summer, the Foundation has compiled a list of some of the most popular foods consumed during the summer and their pH Level.

Highly Acidic – Bad Moderately Acidic – OK Less Acidic – Better
Vinaigrette Salad Dressing: 2.0 Fresh Orange Juice: 3.8 White Bread: 5.0 – 6.0
Wine: 2.5 Cottage Cheese: 4.1 – 5.4 Feta Cheese: 5.0 – 6.1
Cola: 2.5 Fruit Tea: 4.2 Brown Rice: 6.0
Squash/Cordial: 2.8 – 3.8 Lager: 4.4 Gin and Tonic: 6.9
Cider: 2.9 – 3.3 Fish and Chips: 4.6 – 6.7 Sparkling Water: 7.4
    Still Water: 7.6
Ice Lollies: 3.0 – 4.0   Hot Dogs: 6.2
Strawberries: 3.0 – 4.2    
Ice Cream: 3.0 – 5.0    
Olives: 3.8    

Oral Health Foundation

The Oral Health Foundation is a charity that works to improve oral health by providing education, advice, and support to millions of people every year, changing lives for the better. Our mission is to support others in achieving a healthier life through better oral health. Our vision is to live in a world where everybody has a healthy mouth and is free of dental disease. Poor oral health can have a harmful and devastating effect on a person’s life – both for their physical health and mental wellbeing. We are determined to help more people achieve good oral health and have a better quality of life. Sadly, oral disease remains common, across the life course. We are taking the challenge to reduce the harm caused by poor oral health and the responsibility to create a healthier future for everybody. We do this because we believe that everybody deserves to have good oral health. To make sure this happens, by 2024, we will:

    • Work towards decreasing the prevalence of oral disease across communities.
    • Increase the number of people accessing our help and information services.
    • Diversify our range of resources to reach more communities.
    • Successfully campaign for policies which help people achieve healthier lives.
    • Generate new and nurture existing income streams that enable us to deliver our charitable objectives.

We are going to achieve success by:

    • Running awareness campaigns like National Smile Month and Mouth Cancer Action Month.
    • Giving anybody who needs it direct support through our Dental Helpline.
    • Influencing policy on subjects like dental access, sugar, and tobacco.
    • Providing consumer advice on oral health care products and working alongside manufacturers to make sure products do what they claim to do.
    • Creating resources and information that communicates positive oral health messages.
    • Working alongside others who share our passion for health and wellbeing.

To find out more about us, visit our website at

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