Cavity Control through Nutrition and Oral Hygiene

How do sugars attack your teeth?

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.

Invisible germs called bacteria live in your mouth all the time. Some of these bacteria form a sticky material called plaque on the surface of the 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. That's how cavities get started. If you don't eat much sugar, the bacteria can't produce as much of the acid that eats away enamel.

Cavity Potential of Various Foods
All fruits, vegetables, meats, and most dairy products, water and tea
Popcorn, nuts, sugar free cereals, breads, diet soda, potato chips, pretzels, bagels, corn chips, crackers
Sherbet, raisins, soda, juices, cookies, sugar coated cereals, syrups, honey, donuts and milk
Caramels, bridge mix, Reese's cups, Good & Plenty, granola and breakfast bars, Cracker Jacks, jelly beans, gummy bears, sno-caps, gum drops, skittles, Tootsie Rolls, jelly rings, Mary Janes, M & M's, chocolate
All hard sucking candies, Tic tacs, Jaw breakers, Lollipops, Fruit Rollups, gum, charms, candy canes, mints. Energy and Sports drinks (related to very high acid content)

Snack Smart Food List

Pick a variety of foods from these groups:

Fresh fruits and raw vegetables as berries, oranges, grapefruit, melons, pineapple, pears, tangerines, broccoli, celery, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices, canned fruits in natural juices. Grains as bread, plain bagels, unsweetened cereals, un-buttered 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 cheeses.Chicken, turkey, sliced meats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, nuts. Pizza, tacos, popcorn

Frequent snacking on foods containing sugar increases a child's risk of getting cavities.

  • Each time your child eats sugar, plaque in the mouth combines with sugar to produce acid.
  • These acid attacks on the teeth over time can destroy the tooth structure.
  • You need to eat a variety of foods: grains, milk and milk products, meat, vegetables, and fruits.
  • Try to avoid establishing a "sweet tooth" by limiting foods high in sugar.

Snacking Tips
Most foods have the potential to cause cavities if they are consumed slowly over a long period of time.  Eating one candy every five minutes for an hour has a higher cavity potential than the same quantity of candy over a short period of time, for example 12 candies within five minutes. The same is true with the consumption of juices and soda.  Brushing, flossing and rinsing helps reduce the cavity potential but is no substitute for reducing the exposure frequency and duration of foods with a high sugar or starch content.

Proper Tooth Brushing and Flossing is a must!
Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste. Preferably, brush after each meal and especially before going to bed. Clean between your teeth daily with dental floss or interdental cleaners, such as the Oral-B Interdental Brush, Reach Stim-U-Dent, or Sulcabrush. Go to the following ADA Website links for instructions on how to properly brush and floss your teeth.

Eat nutritious and balanced meals and limit snacks. Avoid carbohydrates such as candy, pretzels and chips, which can remain on the tooth surface. If sticky foods are eaten, brush your teeth soon afterwards. Check with your dentist about use of supplemental fluoride, which strengthens your teeth. Ask your dentist about dental sealants (a plastic protective coating) applied to the chewing surfaces of your back teeth (molars) to protect them from decay. The evidence is strong enough to support the regular use of xylitol-sweetened gum as a way to prevent caries, and it can be promoted as a public-health preventive measure. Chewing xylitol-sweetened gum, especially for patients who like chewing gum. Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and an oral exam.