by DR. CHRIS PHAM, Carmel Valley Pediatric Dentistry

Tooth-Healthy Food Decisions

carmel_valley_p_dr_phamWe have all heard that sugar causes cavities. As parents, we go to great lengths to feed our children a healthy, well-balanced diet. However, there are days that feel a little out of our control. Between snacks, running errands, parties at school, grocery store samples, and everything in between, it’s no wonder that cavities are on the rise.

Bacteria that are responsible for cavities convert sugars into acid. Many forms of sugars are utilized by these bad dental bacteria and then the problems begin. When looking at your children’s diet, look at food types that have specific characteristics. For example, Sour Patch Kids, fruit snacks, and dried apricots are all very sticky. It is like gluing the sugar right to your teeth! These types of food have a high retention rate and keep the acid levels in the mouth higher for longer. The risk for cavities is then increased.

Another way that cavities creep in is through frequency of eating, snacking, or grazing. Our little ones have small stomachs and it feels like they constantly are asking for something to eat. We want them to grow to their full potential, and so we sometimes will give them something to eat upon request. This “on demand” feeding pattern leads to acid levels being higher for longer and increases risk for cavities. Three meals and a few planned healthy snacks can be enough to keep our kids growing strong and staying active.

What about all of those hidden sugars? Dental bacteria use carbohydrates as their food source. Many processed foods such as crackers, chips, and juice or high-sugar drinks are already in a form that the bacteria can use right away. Many of these forms of food are marketed as “healthy” and “natural,” but as far as the dental bacteria are concerned it’s food, food, food for cavities!

These decisions can be time-consuming and confusing. The goal here is to simplify that process and give you the ability to determine whether the food or snack is healthy for your teeth.

Tips for healthy teeth:

  •  Avoid foods that stick to the teet
  • Steer clear of “on demand” snacking and grazing – liquids or solids.
  • Look for the hidden sugars – they are in more foods than we first realize.

Tooth friendly snacks ideas:

  • Raw or cooked vegetables.
  • Fruits and vegetables with high water content like apples, pears, melon, berries, carrots,
    broccoli, cucumber, and celery.
  • Meats and aged cheeses like Monterey Jack, cheddar, and Swiss.
  • Hummus with vegetable sticks.
  • Whole wheat toast with peanut butter.
  • Cottage cheese or low-fat Greek yogurt.
  • Unsalted nuts like pumpkin or sunflower seeds.

We understand that sometimes tooth-healthy eating can be difficult. When the healthiest
options aren’t possible, having the kids drink water after eating and snacking is a great
alternative. This will help clear foods from the teeth and dilute the sugars. The goal is to keep acid levels low and keep your child’s teeth and gums healthy for a lifetime!


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