Snack Smarter for Healthier Teeth

healthy teeth

Why are sugary snacks so bad for your child?

Sugary snacks taste so good — but they aren’t so good for your teeth or your body. Candy and other popular sugar filled foods that your kids love to eat between meals can cause tooth decay. Some of these foods have a bunch of fat in them too! Kids who consume sugary snacks eat many different kinds of sugar every day, including table sugar (sucrose) and corn sweeteners (fructose). Starchy snacks can also break down into sugars once they’re in your mouth.

How do the sugars effect their teeth?

Bacteria is present in your, and your child’s mouth at all times. Some of these bacteria form plaque on surface of their teeth. When you put sugar in your mouth, the bacteria in the plaque gobble up the sweet stuff and turn it into acids. These acids are powerful enough to dissolve the hard enamel that covers your teeth- which is where cavities come from. If you don’t eat much sugar, the bacteria can’t produce as much of the acid that eats away enamel.

How Can I “Snack Smart” to Protect Myself from Tooth Decay?

Before you give your child a snack, ask yourself what’s in the food you’ve chosen. Is it loaded with sugar? If it is, think again. Keep in mind that certain kinds of sweets can do more damage than others. Gooey or chewy sweets like caramel and chewing gum spend more time sticking to the surface of your teeth. Because sticky snacks stay in your mouth longer than foods that you quickly chew and swallow, they give your teeth a longer sugar bath.

You should also think about when and how often your child eat snacks. Do they nibble on sugary snacks many times throughout the day, or doyou usually just allow them to have dessert after dinner? Damaging acids form in your mouth every time you eat a sugary snack. The acids continue to affect your teeth for at least 20 minutes before they are neutralized and can’t do any more harm. So, the more times your child eat sugary snacks during the day, the more often you feed bacteria the fuel they need to cause tooth decay.

If you give your child sweets, it’s best to eat them as dessert after a main meal instead of several times a day between meals. Whenever they eat sweets — in any meal or snack —brush your teeth well with a flouride toothpaste afterward.

When you’re deciding about snacks, think about:

  • The number of times a day you eat sugary snacks
  • How long the sugary food stays in your mouth
  • The texture of the sugary food (chewy? sticky?)

How Can You Snack Smart? Be choosy!

Pick a variety of foods from these groups:

Fresh fruits and raw vegetables
Berries
Oranges
Grapefruit
Melons
Pineapple
Pears
Tangerines
Broccoli
Celery
Carrots
Cucumbers
Tomatoes
Unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices
Canned fruits in natural juices

Grains
Bread
Plain bagels
Unsweetened cereals
Unbuttered popcorn
Tortilla chips (baked, not fried)
Pretzels (low-salt)
Pasta
Plain crackers

Milk and dairy products
Low or non-fat milk
Low or non-fat yogurt
Low or non-fat cheese
Slow or non-fat cottage cheese

Meat, nuts and seeds
Chicken
Turkey
Sliced meats
Pumpkin seeds
Sunflower seeds
Nuts

Others
(these snacks combine foods from the different groups)
Pizza
Tacos

 

Note to Parents
The foods listed above have not all been tested for their decay-causing potential. However, knowledge to date indicates that they are less likely to promote tooth decay than are some of the heavily sugared foods children often eat between meals.

Candy bars aren’t the only culprits. Foods such as pizza, breads, and hamburger buns may also contain sugars. Check the label. The new food labels identify sugars and fats on the Nutrition Facts panel on the package. Keep in mind that brown sugar, honey, molasses, and syrups also react with bacteria to produce acids, just as refined table sugar does. These foods also are potentially damaging to teeth.

Your child’s meals and snacks should include a variety of foods from the basic food groups, including fruits and vegetables; grains, including breads and cereals; milk and dairy products; and meat, nuts, and seeds. Some snack foods have greater nutritional value than others and will better promote your child’s growth and development. However, be aware that even some fresh fruits, if eaten in excess, may promote tooth decay. Children should brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste after snacks and meals. (So should you!)