Snack Foods and Children’s Teeth
... Call Sherri D. Wolfe, RDH,
for more information.

As parents we need to be aware

of the foods our children eat when

snacking. We need to be sure to set time

limits on snacking, and not allow

children to "graze" on snacks

throughout the day.

Many pediatricians do not offer this

information to parents, therefore, it is

our responsibility to seek the best ways

of keeping our children's teeth healthy.

About Snacks: As parents we try to do everything we can to benefit our children—financially, educationally, emotionally, and by promoting a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, no matter how hard we strive for the best for our children—we don’t always succeed. Many times the media misleads us in the choices we make for our children. As a dental hygienist I see this so often, especially in the food choices we make for our children. I feel that information about snacks is the most misleading.

Sticky Foods: Before choosing a snack, parents should consider the consistency of the food. Sticky foods will adhere to your child’s teeth longer, thereby allowing bacteria to feed upon the sugars they contain…producing an acid which leads to decay.

When shopping, I see fruit roll-ups and other sticky fruit snacks and read on the labels, “All natural, made from fruit juice.” Most parents would think, “What a perfect snack.” It is important to remember that fruit and fruit juices contain large amounts of sugar. Therefore, items such as fruit roll-ups (or raisins, dates or other dried fruit) are not dentally-wise choices for snacks—unless you child plans to brush and floss immediately after eating. Other items to avoid are jellybeans, gumdrops and toffee. Remember, if it is sticky it is not a great selection. It doesn’t mean you have to give them up entirely, but use those items as an occasional, special treat.

Carbohydrates: Many of us reach for a box of dry cereal, crackers, pretzels or chips for a snack. At first glance you may think, “What could be wrong with these foods?” They are carbohydrates and stick to the grooves of back teeth. Carbohydrates break down into sugar; the longer they are in the mouth, the more likely that acid will be produced. Constant “grazing” on these type of snacks encourages potential decay, so limit your child’s time for eating. Carbohydrates are less harmful when eaten with meals because saliva production is increased during meals. Saliva helps neutralize acid production and helps clear food from the mouth.

Parents should also be wary of cough drops and breath mints (unless sugarless), hard candy, and lollipops. These products contain a high concentration of sugar.

Beverages: Many parents give children juice and milk to drink throughout the day. Did you know that juice contains almost as much natural sugar per ounce as soda? Milk also contains a naturally occurring sugar. These beverages should be served only at mealtimes. The best beverage for your child is water. If your child isn’t receptive, make it fun—buy him or her a special water bottle. Add a splash of lemon or orange juice to it and keep it where your child can reach it. The best way to get your child to drink water is by setting an example. Keep in mind that a piece of fruit is more filling and has more nutrients than fruit juice.

Better Snacks: So, what can we give our children for a snack? Research has found that cheese, peanuts, and sugar-free gum are “friendly” to teeth. For a treat, a plain piece of chocolate melts in the mouth and leaves nothing for bacteria to feed on.

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