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“Healthy” snacks that may not be great for your child’s teeth

Updated: Jun 6, 2022

You’re already teaching your child the basics of taking care of teeth: brush twice a day, floss, and regular dental cleanings and check-ups. But do you know the food your kids eat can have just as big of an impact?

When food stays in the mouth too long, for example, it increases the amount of time the sugar from food sits on teeth causing acids to form and attack teeth. Snacks like dried fruit, granola bars, and fruit gummies can get stuck in teeth and are not easily washed away by saliva, milk, or water.

To help make those packed lunches and afternoon snacks healthy for teeth and overall health, we organized a list of foods you can include, plus some foods that seem healthy but can cause issues for teeth and gums.

Healthy food for teeth and overall health

  • Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. Fresh, crunchy high fiber fruits and vegetables like apples, celery, and carrots fuel the body with minerals and vitamins and help scrub away plaque from teeth. These natural snacks contain water and require a lot of chewing, helping scrub tooth surfaces and balancing the sugars in the mouth.

  • Foods with fluoride. Fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral, helps teeth fight cavities in children and adults by increasing resistance to the acid attacks that cause tooth decay. Almost all water contains fluoride, except some brands of bottled water, in addition to low sugar powdered juices, dehydrated soups, and powdered cereals.

  • Eggs. Whether boiled, scrambled, or fried, eggs contain calcium, protein, and vitamin D which are important minerals for developing teeth and bones. A boiled egg is a great “on-the-go” snack!

  • Milk, cheese, and yogurt. These snacks are rich in calcium and phosphates, which are needed to build strong teeth and bones and neutralize some of the acids produced by plaque bacteria. They also help make saliva, rebuild tooth enamel, and put back minerals that teeth might have lost due to other foods.

  • Broccoli and leafy green vegetables. Thanks to the high levels of vitamins and folic acid found in leafy greens such as spinach and kale, these green vegetables are known to improve the health of teeth and gums.

  • Nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds are a friend to teeth! They help replenish minerals by protecting teeth with their naturally high amounts of calcium and phosphates.

Foods that can damage teeth

  • Sugary drinks. We all know too much sugar is bad for teeth and overall health. The acids and sugar found in soft drinks, even sugar-free diet sodas and non-carbonated sports drinks, destroy tooth enamel and cause decay.

  • Citrus fruit. While citrus fruits like grapefruit and lemon are full of vitamin C and nutrients, they are also highly acidic and can erode tooth enamel over time. Minimizing citrus, including 100% citrus fruit juice, can minimize damage to teeth.

  • Chewy candy. Candies such as fruit chews, taffy and caramel stick to teeth a long time and eat away tooth enamel. Chewy candies, like sour candies, are full of refined sugar and acid and are the most damaging.

  • Chips, bread, and pasta. Food like soft breads, noodles, and potato chips can get trapped in between teeth. Also, the starches from white flour turn into simple sugars in the body and can lead to tooth decay.

While a balanced, varied diet is a good thing (everything in moderation!), minimizing some foods will help keep teeth strong and healthy for many meals to come. We’ll see you at your next appointment!

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