By Angela C. Torrence, RDH and nutritionist
You try to teach your kids to brush two times daily, floss daily, and see your hygienist at least 2 times yearly. This should lead to perfect teeth, right? I’ve spoken with so many caregivers who only consider pop and candy enemies of the mouth; but, there is more to it than avoiding those simple sugars! So many parents and grandparents have heard that sugar is bad for teeth, but what exactly is sugar and how can kids (and adults) avoid it?
Snacking is one of the biggest contributors to tooth decay and yet, it is hardly discussed. The following are some snacking dos and don’ts for the health of your and your kids’ mouth.
- Gummy snacks and caramels are sticky sugars that are definite no-nos.
- Granola bars are laden with sugar and stick to the grooves of your teeth keeping the sugar in contact with the tooth longer.
- Potato chips have small amounts of sugar and also stick to teeth. Notice a trend? Keep those sticky things off your teeth.
- Carbohydrates are sugars. Bagels, breads, and pastas are sugars when broken down in your saliva. Things like bagels stick to the teeth keeping the sugar in contact with the tooth longer, so limit these items to reduce the carbs from sticking.
- Constantly sipping on drinks including diet soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks can definitely contribute to tooth decay. Note: if you must have these drinks, drinking it faster (in about 10 minutes) is better for the teeth than drinking it slowly (over the course of an hour).
- Eat healthy snacks like carrots, celery, bell pepper slices, cheese sticks, whole apples, and nuts which are great options.
- Drink water after snacks helps to wash away excess food debris.
- White milk helps restore minerals in the enamel and helps to buffer acid in the mouth.
- Swish with a fluoride rinse after snacking to help strengthen enamel.
- Brush your teeth two to three times daily and aim to floss daily (this can include using a water flosser).
In Arizona, you have access to a great variety of fruits and vegetables that are not only better for your teeth but naturally healthy for you. Remember Fill Your Plate to find ideas about vegetable snacks and more.