Does Your Energy Bar Cause Cavities?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I'm one of those people who typically eats a PowerBar (or similar product) as I'm heading out the door for a run. They are pretty sticky and chewy, so I'll wash it down with some water and go. I never thought about the impact that could be having on my teeth, or the fact that it could cause me an unexpected trip to the dentist.

We all know that sugary foods like candy and soda pop lead to cavities. But dentists are finding that nutrition bars, which are often high in sugar and full of sticky ingredients, are just as bad for your pearly whites. When food stays in your mouth for a while, that gives the bacteria longer to feed on it. Bacteria produce acids which eat at tooth enamel and eventually cause tooth decay. Sounds lovely, doesn't it?

If everyone brushed their teeth and flossed as soon as they finished eating, it wouldn't be a problem. But many people use nutrition bars on the go- as they head out for a workout (like I do), as a meal replacement during a busy day at work, or in the car as they shuffle kids between soccer practice and piano lessons. So if brushing your teeth after eating isn't an option, what else can you do?

Rinsing with water after eating and chewing sugarless gum can help. The nutrition bar itself isn't "bad", but leaving food on the surface of the tooth is the problem. So gum and water can help move the food off of your teeth. Chewing gum also changes the pH of your mouth which makes it more difficult for acid to destroy the tooth enamel.

Do you eat nutrition bars regularly? If so, do you brush and floss after? If not, have you noticed any more cavities than usual?

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I eat them occassionally. I'm surprised about all the gum chewing. I find that most people would be horrified if they looked in the mirror and saw how they look chewing gum. Saliva hanging, wad of gum often colored showing and sometimes the grimaces made are priceless. Report
I'd probably eat them more often if they weren't so expensive. I wonder if the homemade ones are just as bad for you? Report
I eat them once in a great while and I am a chronic gum chewer. Report
I like the kid size Clif Bars and I eat them on the run so I don't pull into a fast food place to grab the wrong thing. Don't get to brush until I get home. Report
if it tastes like diet food.......I won't touch it. It reminds me of dieting in the late 90's eating all those Slim Fast thanks! Report
I don't eat them. Report
Dried fruit is just as much as a candy bar. Report
I don't eat them...but my son does. I will make sure he gets this information....Thanks! Report
I don't eat nutrition bars anymore. They seem so processed. Report
I guess I'm unusual because I floss both morning and night. I also don't eat energy or any other type of bar. But I do eat sticky foods like dried fruit. When I do, I will wait about 30 minutes before rinsing my mouth out with plain water. Report
When I do eat nutrition bars, my teeth hurt from the sugar and it doesn't seem to matter the brand or type. So I definitely wash it down with some water! Report
It seems to me that WHAT you eat isn’t at issue. Don’t blame it on the energy bar. People should be more vigilant about brushing and flossing their teeth. (How many people even floss these days? Consistently?) I remember when I was in elementary school, we had this dentist do a demonstration with red dye tablets showing how poorly most people brush their teeth. The dentist went on to suggest that people brush their teeth at a minimum of 3 times a day -and flossing - doing so more often depending on what they eat.

I do not eat energy bars, but I do eat peanuts and popcorn – which do a great job of getting stuck in my teeth. I think the take away should be – rather than telling people to be mindful of what they eat – to focus on better oral hygiene. More brushing, using calorie-fighting mouth wash, and more frequent use of floss is key. Report
I agree with everyone that says you need to get the bacteria and food out of your mouth. Water and Gum are my tools... so far so good.... :) Oh.. don't really eat the bars... Report
I usually keep a few nutrition bars on hand for an occasional before or after exercise energy boost or as a meal replacement/enhancement. The convenience of them makes them a good backup for rushed or unexpected situations where fresher and less processed snacks like nuts and fruit might not be as practical. I prefer the crunchy variety rather than the chewy ones, but I almost always chew sugar-free gum after eating anything, if I'm not able to brush my teeth right away.

This blog and all the member comments points out one of the greatest benefits for me of SparkPeople. It keeps me thinking about a wide range of health-related issues from a wide variety of viewpoints. Thank you, and please keep them coming! Report
Also most gum people chew .. trident, orbit e.t.c. have something in it called Aspartame which is a Nuro - Toxin to the brain, this is food for cancer. I removed all the products in my diet containing Aspartame and cut down the frequency of headaches more then %90. Report
Do you eat nutrition bars regularly? No, I'm not a fan. I usually eat an ounce of walnuts, almonds, and/or cashews for a snack, with a piece of fresh fruit.

If so, do you brush and floss after? If not, have you noticed any more cavities than usual? My father is a retired dentist, and I've known this advice about sticky, chewy foods since I was old enough to hold a toothbrush. My father always said he'd rather give his kids a piece of chocolate than a lollypop, because the lollypop is in the mouth longer and is more likely to promote cavities. I brush 2x a day and floss every night. I have never had a cavity (I am 43), but I agree with others who said that this is not only due to good dental hygiene, but also to good genes. I am lucky that I have strong enamel, and that I had emphasis on oral hygiene growing up. My parents both had lots of cavities as kids, and had extensive dental work over the years because of it (replaced fillings, crowns, etc.). I am proud that my own daughter has only had one cavity (she is 18). Considering that her father has terrible hygiene, I think she is lucky to have only had one cavity so far in her life. Report
Anything sticky needs to be removed quickly, carbs turn to sugar. And yes, eating hard crunchy fruits and veggies are really great at removing tartar and sticky from our teeth. Report
i find articles like this interesting Report
I don't them eat them anymore. I am trying to really limit processed foods. Thanks for the info. I should carry an extra toothbrush around anyway, and floss. Report
No eating them will not .. brushing and flossing will help Report
Born in the first half of the last century gives me a "long range" perspective on this issue.

I've only had two cavities in my life - both before the introduction of the 'Fiber Bars/Power Bars'.

I average one of these quick, on-the-go bars a day.

IMHO, it boils down to three things, in order of impact:
1) Your genetic make-up.
2) Living in an area that has either natural fluoridation, or fluoridation added at the water treatment plant.
3) Consistent oral hygiene.

The responsibility for doing what it takes to protect your teeth in the manner that's best for you, lies on you. Report
Don't blame the energy bar, blame the person lacking hygiene skills. I always eat on the go therefore I always carry floss-picks in my purse, gym bag and car. I'm never without water. Report
I brush after or drink lots of water. Floss even if I can't brush. No new cavities in 30 years. Report
I never thought of Clif Bar residue on my teeth as a detriment, as I typically wash it down with multiple gulps of water and also brush 2-3 x daily, chew Orbit gum or Trident all day.. but now I am re-thinking. Maybe I should pack a toothbrush in my gym bag. Report
I never, ever, ever eat a protein bar unless it is sugar free and low carb. Report
Using gum or a mint with xylitol will also after meals. My hygienist says it makes the bacteria "slippery" so it is easier to rinse off your teeth. Report
I am a GUM chewer. Pop a piece soon as I have eaten something. Can't stand my mouth and teeth if I don't "clean" them as soon as possible after eating. Report
wow.. thats really interesting!! I didnt know that energy bars were that bad, not to mention the effects of gum! thanks for the info Report
Yes, I do eat them regularly. I never thought to brush my teeth after. I like crunchy bars and have worried about the damage to my teeth. Report
I don' t eat nutrition but once in a blue moon(so to speak), but I chew gum almost daily. I am addicted to gum chewing. Report
Boy, I never thought about what an energy bar in the middle of the day could do..I'll have to rely on my sugarless gum to keep my teeth healthy!

Thanks for this entry. I haven't thought of this before, but it makes sense. I'm not much of an energy-bar person, but this advice could really apply to almost any snack. Report
I eat high protein bars sometimes, but I always brush my teeth afterwards. That's why I plan ahead and try never to "eat on the go" Sometimes it's unavoidable and I can at least rinse with water. Report
I eat energy bars all the time and, to be honest, I'm surprised it's taken this long for someone to notice the sugar content information on the back of the bar, on average about 21 grams for the bars I enjoy, and put two and two together.

Of course ANY treat that has sugar, or breaks down to sugars (breads and pastries, for example, or anything chock full of starches) will lend to tooth decay.

I just look at it as having a lunch at work and not brushing until after dinner, in the evening. Report
Unless a bar has a high protein content, I'm better off avoiding it. High-sugar bars always make my blood sugar peak, then fall rapidly. I don't have diabetes, but my blood sugar's on the low side. So these things make me feel terrible to begin with. I don't worry about sugar and my teeth, though; they're all filled (some multiple times!) and I've got as many crowns as the British royal family. I think it helps, too, that I never skip my 6-mo. cleanings and exams. Report
This is interesting. I am trying to cut refined, processed sugars from my diet and the only "nutrition" bar I've had is a whole food/raw bar. I mostly try to make my own stuff, but I figure when I'm on the run it's the best I can do if I can't grab fruit or nuts. For the most part, I try to keep almonds and apples on hand. (Or other fruits when they are in season) Report
Thanks for the info! I've eaten more granola bars lately & I go to the dentist soon. I'll see how I do then. Oh, I haven't brushed afterwards or chewed gum, but I'm usually drinking water at the same time. Report
Another culprit for similar reasons: dried fruit like dried apricots. It's a growing problem for young kids who are being offered dried fruit instead of candy or cookies. Report
I eat a lot of protein bars, but I only rarely get the chewy ones. Report
If people brushed efter eating a meal dential costs would be kept down. Even our healthy complex carbs do damage if mouth hygienge is not okay! This includes removing placue from the gum base to avoid teeth avoid gum damage and teeth falling out or needing extensive operations.. It is not just energy bars that are the sinner, it is people teeth brushing habits that are poor.. However, the elderly are now actually dying with their own teeth, this is a step in a good direction instead of just brushing dentures... Report
I think "energy/protein" bars should be banned.
You can make some really good, hearty muffins and drink a protein drink just as easily while running out the door, I THINK.
I try to brush after every meal and snacks. sometimes I don't. However I haven't had a cavity in years even though I've lost some teeth. What I have left is good. Report
The Snickers power bars are the only ones I like, but they are high in MSG. Gum, I have 2 implants from gum even after I brushed my teeth after gum. I gave up all gum, especially sugar free which what I liked until a trip to the dentist cost me 6k. My advice, be careful with your pearly whites. Report
I tend to stay away from Power Bars because of the calorie content and because they are too chewy for me. If I eat a granola bar, it's a Kashi granola bar but only as a treat. And I try to share with others so I don't eat the whole box.

I'm not a good person to ask, because I got my first cavity when I was 45, and I think that is still the only one I have. I don't eat energy bars either. Fruit is my snack of choice. All the same, I am trying to remember to brush and floss my teeth more often. I work in an office, so it wouldn't be that hard to do. It's a good thought. I think I'll try it. :) Report
I've never had a cavity, but I do have sensitive teeth, so chewy sweet things aren't always pleasant. I've never had a problem with luna bars though. Report
I don't eat them, but I do remember one of my elementary teachers when we were learning to brush our teeth tell us that graham crackers are not good for our teeth. It is also one of the reasons I avoid buying the chewy fruit snacks for my kids. Report
I don't like to have my teeth full of leftover trailbar so I keep toothbrush and paste in my car Report
Just want to add to the blog...those 10 calorie Vitamin water drinks...well, they are 10 cals, but for a price. They are not loaded with sugar, but the taste comes from ascorbic and citric acid...which happens to cause etching in the surface of the enamel, which will then lead to tooth decay.

If you drink these drinks instead of water, BEWARE, because you are causing as much damage to your teeth as if you were drinking a soda each time you sip.

I work in a dental office and have seen many teenagers come in with many caries..when asked about their diet - the answer usually includes one of those drinks that they sip all day long while at school because, "It tastes better than water."

There is a lot of info on the web regarding these drinks...very eye opening too. I loved a quote "if you want to drink this product, treat it as if you would a can of's a better caloric choice than a soda, but that is about it." Report
I haven't had to worry about cavities since I was twenty one. Report
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