Diet and Dental Health

Eating starchy foods like crackers instead of a chocolate bar gives oral bacteria more time to produce enamel-destroying acids. One should think in terms of how long it takes for acids to neutralize in the mouth. Since acids neutralize slower with stickier foods, those foods that do not dissolve quickly into solution in the mouth are more likely to cause tooth decay. No food is really bad for those who do not snack often, brush and floss correctly twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste, and rinse with water to neutralize acids in the mouth shortly after ingesting those sticky foods that cause longer term acidity in the mouth .

” Dr. Regina Gray DDS San Jose, CA Caries Res, 19: 536-546

Caries Res, 19: 536-546

Your mother was wrong: Chocolate milk is OK for children’s teeth. Chocolate milk, like white milk, provides protein, calcium and vitamins. And since children like it, they drink more of it.

A cracker is safer for teeth than a caramel, right? Wrong. The “sticking point” of choosing snacks for healthy teeth is that we aren’t very good at telling how long a food really stays in the mouth. Research from the American Dental Association shows that some sticky foods clear from the mouth faster than less sticky foods, and thus pose a shorter acid attack on teeth. For example, caramels dissolve more quick from the mouth than crackers,breakfast cereals, potato chips, dried fruit or bread.

Facts on Food

Food doesn’t cause tooth decay, eating does. Children’s dental health depends less on what they eat and more on how often they eat it.

About 90 percent of all foods contain sugars or starches that enable bacteria in dental plaque to produce acids. This attack by bacterial acid, lasting 20 minutes of more, can lead to loss of tooth mineral and to cavities.

Cooked starches (fermentable carbohydrates) can lead to cavities just as sugars can. In fact, such cooked starches as breads, crackers, pasta, pretzels and potato chips frequently take longer to clear the mouth than sugars. So the decay risk may last even longer.

Science cannot tell us which foods are worst or best with respect to risk of decay.

To cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth, sugars are essentially the same, whether natural or processed. All types of sugars – and the foods that contain them – can play a role in tooth decay.

The bacteria in the mouth can’t tell the difference between the amount of sugar or starch in food. For example, a lick of frosting can start the same acid attack as eating a whole cake.

A food with sugar or starch is safer for teeth if it’s eaten with a meal, not as a snack.

Snacks, served no more than three or four times a day, should contribute to the overall nutrition and health of the child. Some healthy snacks are: cheese, vegetables, yogurt, peanut butter and chocolate milk.

A child who licks a piece of hard candy every few minutes to make it last – or slowly sips a sugared drink while studying – is flirting with a high risk of tooth decay. Such long-lasting snacks create an acid attack on teeth for the entire time they are in the mouth.

If children have poor diets, their teeth may not develop properly. Children need protein, vitamins and minerals, especially calcium and phosphorous, to build strong teeth and resist tooth decay andgum disease.

Parents should select meals and snacks for dental health by caring for the whole child, providing sound nutrition as defined by the food pyramid of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Tips for Parents:

Diet and Dental Health Ask your dentist to help you assess your child’s diet.

Provide a balanced diet and save foods with sugar or starch for meal times.

Serve snacks no more than three or four times a day. Choose such nutritious snacks as cheese, vegetables, yogurt and chocolate milk.

Shop smart. Do not routinely stock your pantry with sugary or starchy snacks. Buy “fun foods” just for special times.

Don’t put your young child to bed with a bottle of milk, formula or juice.

If your child chews gum or sips soda, select products that are sugar-free.

Chocolate Milk: Your Mother Was Wrong

Children aged one to ten need the amount of calcium each day found in about three cups of milk.Older children need the amount of calcium a day found in a quart of milk. Chocolate milk, like white milk, is highly nutritious. Most chocolate milk is made from low-fat or skip milk with added sucrose. Chocolate milk is preferable to many popular snacks that provide energy but few nutrients. Milk is a significant source of protein, calcium and vitamins.

Children like chocolate milk. They are more likely to choose it over plain milk and are likely to drink more of it. It’s better for children to drink milk than to throw it out.

Chocolate milk has about the same amount of sugar as orange juice and about half as much sugar as a can of cola. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one cup of juice a day. Chocolate milk has one-fifth the amount of caffeine found in most cola drinks.

Cheese: The Cavity Fighter

Certain cheeses have been shown to have characteristics that disrupt the development of cavities when eaten alone as a snack or at the end of a meal. Cheeses such as aged cheddar, Swiss, mozzarella and Monterey jack stimulate the flow of saliva, clearing the mouth of food debris and acting as a buffer to neutralize the acids that attack teeth. The calcium and phosphorous found in cheese also reduce or prevent decreases in pH levels of saliva and promote remineralizaiton of booth enamel.