When we talk about dental health and oral hygiene, there’s an underlying notion that food is the enemy. As children, you’ve probably heard your parents tell you to brush your teeth after every meal to remove any stray food particles. If left on your teeth for too long, those food particles can rot and cause tooth decay, which can even evolve into gum disease. But this isn’t the case at all. Nowadays, we know that saliva washes away most of the particles on your teeth. And if you eat food that’s good for your teeth, it can do your teeth more good than harm. But there are seemingly healthy foods that can actually do a number on your teeth—like oatmeal. But how does oatmeal cause tooth decay?
If the idea that oatmeal causes cavities is a head-scratcher for you, don’t worry. To understand why this breakfast staple’s created some controversy—and to answer whether oats are bad for your teeth—it’s essential to consider what oatmeal is made of.
But how does oatmeal cause tooth decay?
Oats contain phytic acid, which hinders the absorption of essential nutrients
For most people, oatmeal is a wonder food. They include a good portion of the nutrients and minerals you need to sustain yourself while being a great source of fiber. Dietitians and nutritionists would probably call them a nutrient-dense food, seeing as they’re jam-packed with all the good stuff. One would be hard-pressed to see oats as anything but a health benefit. So why are oats bad for your teeth?
To understand this line of thinking, we’ll need to look into what oats are made of. As a grain, oats contain phytic acid. While this isn’t a bad thing per se—phytic acid has its own share of health benefits—it does hinder the absorption of nutrients, including:
So why is this bad for your teeth? And how does oatmeal cause cavities? We all know that calcium builds up your bones and teeth. If you get less of this mineral, you could be putting your teeth at risk for demineralization, which makes it more susceptible to tooth decay. Anything that hinders your calcium absorption, then, is a big no-no if your tooth enamel is already at risk. It’s no wonder, then, why some people would find the phytic acid in oatmeal a little concerning.
But does oatmeal really cause tooth decay?
Does oatmeal cause tooth decay, really?
So far, the case against oats mostly rests on how much phytic acid it contains. Which is fair, for the most part. But just as cherries contain cyanide, the amount of phytic acid in oats usually isn’t enough to bar you from absorbing calcium altogether. As long as you aren’t severely malnourished or nutrient-deficient, you should still be getting enough of it for your tooth enamel.
And if you do decide to skip out on the oats, you might be losing out on another tooth-healthy mineral: phosphorus. According to Healthline, ½ cup of dry oats contains 41% of your recommended daily intake, which is a lot to miss out on.
So does oatmeal really cause tooth decay? Not really. Help yourself to your breakfast serving.