March 1, 2021

How Eating Right Can Help Kids Fight Cavities

Cavities are no fun, especially for children, which is why starting an oral hygiene routine early is so important! And while building a good brushing habit is essential, understanding how the foods they eat affect dental health can help kids take a proactive approach to keep their pearly whites cavity-free. 

Talking to children about how cavities form and which foods or habits contribute to tooth decay doesn’t have to be all about what *not* to do; it can be an opportunity to empower your kids to take a proactive role in their own healthcare. 

Share these tips with your kids to give them the upper hand against cavities!

What are bacteria, anyway? What does it have to do with cavities?

Bacteria are microorganisms — tiny living things that live all around us and in our bodies. Some bacteria keep us healthy, while others make us sick. When it comes to our teeth, bacteria hitch rides on anything we put in our mouths, whether that’s the food we eat, the silverware we use, or our own fingers! 

In our mouths, bacteria feed off leftover food debris and (essentially) poop out plaque, which causes cavities, bad breath, and gum disease. There’s no way to keep bacteria from showing up in our mouths, which is why it’s important to stick to a regular brushing habit, which keeps bacteria from hanging around long enough to cause harm. 

How to snack with your teeth in mind

Eating does more than introduce bacteria — it also changes the pH balance in our mouths, weakening tooth enamel and exposing the more delicate structures in our teeth to harm. But don’t worry! There are plenty of ways to keep snacking that support oral health:

Snack right

Avoiding sweets, sticky candy, sodas, and other sugary drinks is a huge part of protecting enamel, but instead of a list of things they shouldn’t eat, give your kids a list of delicious treats that support oral health:

  • Fruits and veggies
  • Nuts and oats
  • Cheese and other dairy products
  • Peanut butter and hummus 

But we aren’t here to tell you to never let your kids enjoy the occasional treat! When they *do* get down on some sweets, there are a number of ways to mitigate the harm they can cause teeth:

  • Drink sugary drinks and sodas through a straw, and don’t sip them slowly
  • Eat something from the list above after snacking on sweets to give your teeth a head start on rebalancing pH
  • Drink water often, especially after snacking, to wash away bacteria, acids, and sugars

Start an after-snack habit

As we said above, drinking (or rinsing with) water after snacking is a great way to keep harmful bacteria from getting too comfortable in kid’s mouths, but it’s always wise to brush afterward. BUT! Make sure you wait 20 minutes after snacking before brushing and flossing, to give pH levels time to balance to avoid brushing away enamel.  

There you have it! A few tips for your young ones on how eating right can help them make visits to the dentist much more pleasant. As always, if you’ve got questions, we recommend talking with your pediatric dentist for more information.