Snacks and healthy teeth
Our teeth are an important part of our appearance and are essential for chewing our food. However, while most of us are dismayed at the thought of fillings or tooth extractions, we can be pretty cavalier when caring for our pearly whites.
Changing a family's bad habits can be difficult, but it's worth the effort to achieve solid teeth and healthy gums.
Snacking on unhealthy sweet or salty foods can damage oral and overall health. And if you do it, chances are your children will too.
Whether you're transitioning your kids to a healthier, more balanced diet or just starting to change your habits, you need to learn a little to create healthy snacking habits for life.
What is considered smart snacking?
Kids love to snack, but snacking can be challenging to keep teeth healthy. Smart snacking involves both strategic snack planning and selecting certain types of foods. Both can help limit the potential for tooth decay.
Smart snacking involves limiting how often children snack between meals and choosing foods that are better than others in type and texture. Snacking all at once rather than a little bit throughout the day is better.
It is also helpful to limit the consumption of carbohydrates and processed foods as much as possible. Processed foods, such as crackers, chips, tubes of sugary yogurt, etc., contain many simple carbohydrates quickly broken down by enzymes in the saliva into glucose. Glucose is the energy source for cavity-causing bacteria.
Limiting chewy and sticky foods also helps. These foods can get stuck in the grooves of the back teeth and stay there for a long time, increasing the risk of cavities.
Better choices for a snack
For many reasons, minimally processed whole foods, such as fruits, will always be better than processed carbohydrate-rich foods.
Snacks with more protein and fewer carbohydrates are a good choice. Nuts and semi-skimmed cheese are excellent in this regard and also help strengthen teeth.
Although they may contain some sugar, hard or crunchy fruits and vegetables, such as pears, apples, peaches, celery, and carrots, are a good choice, providing many vital nutrients. Sticky dried fruits, such as raisins, have nutritional benefits but can get stuck in the grooves of the back teeth.
Hard foods rub against the teeth in a way that can sometimes help remove dental plaque buildup, almost like supplemental brushing.
What to do to make smart snack
- Preventing cavities is the ultimate goal. Try swapping out candy, soda, and chips for healthier options like fruits, vegetables, yogurt, and natural juices.
- Brush and floss 30 minutes after eating snacks that are "sticky" or contain a lot of sugar or carbohydrates. Be sure to brush your teeth at least twice daily and floss before bed.
- If you can't brush immediately after snacking, rinse with mouthwash or water.
- If you eat something unhealthy, limit the time you expose your teeth to these foods. Instead of drinking soda or eating French fries for an extended period or the whole day, try drinking or eating for a shorter period.
What's wrong with sugary snacks?
Sugary snacks taste great but are not so good for your teeth or body. Candy, cakes, cookies, and other sugary foods kids love to snack on between meals can lead to cavities.
The bacteria that cause cavities feed on any source of carbohydrates that we eat: sugar, bread, potatoes, rice, crackers, chips, pretzels, jelly beans, fruit snacks, juices, etc. Eating those carbohydrates converts them into acid, and that acid is what causes tooth decay.
Our saliva helps to reverse the effects of the acid. However, if children constantly eat carbohydrates throughout the day, the production of acid overcomes the ability of saliva to buffer or counteract the acid, and tooth decay is more likely to occur.
In addition, some processed foods are high in fat. Children who consume sugary snacks ingest sugar daily, such as table sugar (sucrose) and corn sweeteners (fructose).
Preventive Dentistry in Kingman, AZ
Processed sweet foods aren't the only ones harmful to your teeth. Starchy snacks can also break down into sugars once in the mouth, making tooth decay more likely. Foods such as pizza, bread, and hamburger buns may also contain sugars. Always remember to check the label.
New food labels identify sugars and fats on the Nutrition Facts panel on the package. Be aware that brown sugar, honey, molasses, and syrups also react with bacteria to produce acids, as does refined table sugar. These foods are also potentially harmful to teeth.
As dental experts, we at Kingman Family Dentistry can help you find even more ideas for healthy smart snacks. Call us at (928) 718-8668 to schedule dental checkups for you and your family. Visit us, and we'll happily work out a plan together.