Keeping your child’s teeth healthy goes beyond brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits.

What your child eats and drinks is also very important, as the food and beverages your child consumes will either contribute to the development of cavities or promote strong, healthy teeth. So, pay attention to your child’s diet to ensure they’re consuming foods and beverages that support good oral health.

How Diet and Dental Problems are Connected

The Two Main Culprits: Sugar and Acid

While certain conditions can increase a child’s susceptibility to cavities, consuming excessive amounts of sugar and acid remains one of the most common causes.

When kids eat or drink sugary things, bacteria in their mouths eat the sugar and make acid. This acid slowly wears away the tooth enamel. As the enamel gets weaker, cavities can start to form in the teeth.

Some foods and drinks, like Takis, sports drinks, and fizzy drinks, already have acid in them (in addition to sugar). If children have these too often, the acid can also damage their tooth enamel, even without the bacteria making more acid from sugar. This is called dental erosion.

Dental erosion is irreversible and makes the teeth more vulnerable to fracture, wear, and tooth decay.

Frequency of Consumption

Another thing that affects tooth decay is the frequency of exposure to sugary snacks and drinks. If they snack a lot during the day, their teeth are always in contact with sugar and acid.

It’s important to note that each time a person consumes sugary foods or drinks, the sugar and acid remain in the mouth for 20-40 minutes.

Normally, saliva helps neutralize these substances and protect the teeth. However, if the exposure is prolonged, the saliva doesn’t have enough time to do its job effectively, and allow the mouth to return to a normal, non-acidic pH. As a result, the acids can attack the teeth for extended periods, increasing the risk of developing cavities.

Read Also: The 5 Most Common Causes of Cavities in Children

Foods and Drinks That Increase Your Child’s Cavity Risk:

Sugary snacks and candies

Candy, cookies, cakes, and other sweet treats are loaded with sugar, which is a favorite food for the bacteria that cause cavities.

Acidic foods and beverages

Sports drinks, juices, and sodas are high in sugar AND acid, which can wear away tooth enamel. Even diet sodas, which don’t contain sugar, can still harm teeth due to their acidity.

Sticky treats

Sticky foods like gummy candies, fruit snacks, and even dried fruits can cling to teeth for a long time, getting trapped in the grooves in your teeth, which are hard to clean.

Snacking Tips for Cavity-Free Children

To help your child maintain a cavity-free smile, consider these tips below.

Limit sugary, acidic, and sticky foods/drinks

Reduce your child’s intake of foods and beverages that contain sugar, acid, and sticky foods. When they do consume these items, have them brush their teeth or rinse their mouth with water afterward to help wash away some of the harmful substances.

Alternatively, let your child have these foods/drinks during mealtimes to minimize the teeth’s exposure to acids and sugars.

Choose teeth-friendly snacks instead

Offer your child snacks that are good for their teeth, such as:

  1. Crunchy veggies like carrots and celery actually “clean” the teeth as you chew the fibrous pieces, and also help stimulate saliva flow, which neutralizes acid and removes food particles from teeth.
  2. Low-fat yogurt. Yogurt contains calcium and probiotics, which can help strengthen teeth and fight harmful bacteria.
  3. Cheese is high in calcium and phosphates, which can help remineralize tooth enamel and prevent cavities.

Promote a well-balanced diet

Make sure your child eats a variety of nutritious foods from the five main food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. A balanced diet provides the nutrients necessary for healthy teeth and gums.

Reduce snacking frequency

Children who frequently consume sugary snacks and drinks throughout the day tend to present with more cavities than others. Choose healthier items for more frequent snacking.

Avoid non-water bedtime bottles

Never put your child to bed with a bottle filled with milk, formula, juice, or any other sugary liquid. These beverages can pool around their teeth while they sleep, leading to a condition called early childhood caries or baby bottle tooth decay. If your child needs a bottle to fall asleep, fill it with water instead.

Maintain a Consistent Oral Hygiene Routine

As we discussed earlier, maintaining a proper oral hygiene routine is just as crucial as promoting a balanced, tooth-friendly diet.

To establish a strong oral hygiene routine, make sure your child brushes their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flosses daily. Also, schedule regular dental visits for your child.

Implementing these tips can help your child establish a foundation for a lifetime of healthy, cavity-free smiles. Not only will this benefit their dental health, but it will also contribute to their overall well-being and self-confidence.

But you’re not alone! As your trusted Lafayette pediatric dentist, our team at Lafayette Pediatric Dentistry is committed to guiding you and your child through every stage of their dental journey.

Give your child the best start for a bright, cavity-free future by scheduling an appointment with us now!