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Many parents make it a rule to only offer their kids healthy snacks. But once your children start going to preschool, things can change. As peers begin to have more influence, it’s not always possible for your kids to say no to sugar. And with that in mind, parents don’t always have to say no either.
While sugar does feed the bacteria that cause cavities, sweet treats can be an important part of childhood. There’s no need to ban treats altogether, as long as we have information to help us take care of our teeth after enjoying something sweet!
What Are the Worst Foods For My Teeth?
The American Dental Association (ADA) has a great target list of foods that are tough on teeth. Here are a few of the worst culprits:
- Hard candy & sticky/gummy candy: When it comes to sugary treats, the main problem is the length of time the sweets spend on your teeth. That’s why hard candy like lollipops and sticky or gummy candies like taffy are on the no-no list. Because these candies tend to hang out in your kids’ mouths, it’s basically like giving the teeth a sugar bath.
- Soft drinks: We recommend avoiding these for little ones and making them an occasional special treat for big kids. Sodas are not only full of sugar, but also high in acid, which damages tooth enamel. Even diet sodas are highly acidic, so we don’t recommend substituting those. Sodas are something to keep out of the pantry and occasionally enjoy when dining out.
- Sports drinks: Lots of parents who say no to sodas are often okay with sports drinks for young athletes. Unfortunately, sports drinks are also packed full of sugar. We like to remind parents that water is best for hydration!
- Juice: We don’t have a problem with juice per se, but moderation is key. Many parents don’t realize how much natural sugar juice contains. We also remind parents to avoid putting juice in a sippy cup as that brings the sugar and acid directly in contact with your little one’s teeth. Instead, serve a small amount of juice in a small cup.
- Ice: Chewing on ice is a bad habit that adults sometimes pass onto our kids. Encourage your children not to chew on ice by setting a good example and not doing it yourself!
- Crunchy snacks: The problem with carb-heavy snacks like chips and pretzels is that small amounts often get stuck between the teeth and can be a breeding ground for bacteria. It’s best to enjoy these snacks with a nice glass of water!
What Are the Best Foods For My Teeth?
- Water: We can’t say it enough – we love water! Water has no sugar, leaves nothing behind on the teeth, and it can rinse away some of the residue left by other foods and remove food particles from between teeth.
- Dairy: Dairy is on the list because it has calcium that helps strengthen teeth. But be careful – milk does contain natural sugars, so milk in a sippy cup usually isn’t a good idea. Also, check sugar levels in yogurts – some are better than others. Cheese is another great, high-protein, healthy snack.
- High fiber fruits and vegetables: These strengthen teeth and often contain vitamins that are great for gum health. But take it easy on the dried fruits since they can cause some of the same problems as gummy candies. Citrus is great because it’s high in Vitamin C, but don’t go overboard as acids can hurt enamel.
- Nuts: If your child is allergy-free, nuts with low (or no) salt are a terrific, mineral-filled crunchy snack. Sunflower seeds are also a great high-protein treat that many of our patients with allergies enjoy. Be sure to floss afterward!
How Should I Care For My Teeth After I Eat Something Bad?
We don’t want to turn sweet treats into forbidden fruit, but we want to make sure to limit the damage they do to our kids’ teeth. Here are a few tips for helping kids to care for their teeth after eating something that may not be the best for oral health.
- Moderation: Make sure sweets are special treats and not a regular part of your little one’s child’s diet.
- Drink water: Rinsing with water is probably the best and easiest way to remove food particles and sugar directly after eating.
- Floss: The ADA recommends flossing once a day, but there’s nothing to keep you from flossing more frequently. This is a great idea after a high-carb crunchy snack, and flossing doesn’t always need to follow brushing.
- Mouth rinse: Using a fluoride mouth rinse after eating something sweet is a good preventive measure. This is especially important after eating hard or sticky candy.
- Brush: Brushing your teeth after a sugary treat is a good idea – but studies suggest it’s probably best to wait a while. One study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends waiting at least 30 minutes after eating or drinking something acidic like soda or candy, so you don’t accidentally brush away enamel in the process. Instead, rinse with water and then brush a little later.
Finally, make sure you replace your family’s toothbrushes regularly to get rid of any food particles or build-up on the brush.
Getting Smart About Sugar
It’s okay to enjoy a treat every now and then. The important thing is to remember balance and learn to be smart about when and how your child enjoys those treats. And don’t forget to make regularly scheduled appointments with NOVA Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics to make sure you’re staying on track!
If you have any questions regarding the proper care of your child’s teeth, contact NOVA Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics today.