Top 10 Foods for Rotten Teeth

While most areas of children’s health improve with time, it seems we’re actually taking a step backward in preschool dental health in the U.S. A recent New York Times article reported that dentists are seeing “more preschoolers… with 6 to 10 cavities or more.” Yikes! In some cases, the level of tooth decay is so severe, these kids are having to go under general anesthesia for treatment.

With a recent rise in preschool tooth decay, dental health experts are giving a thumbs-down to certain snacks and treats. Here are the worst offenders:

1. Sticky candies and sweets.

Not only are these foods laden with sugar, but their stickiness also allows that sugar to stay on the tooth surface for long periods of time and do maximum damage. So pass on things like taffy and caramel.

2. Carbonated drinks.

Soft drinks are the leading source of excess sugar consumption among children and teens. Carbonated beverages also contain phosphoric and citric acids which erode tooth enamel, making them doubly bad.

3. Starchy foods.

Foods made with lots of refined sugar and flour (think white bread, potato chips, pastries) can leave lots of doughy bits lodged between teeth after eating.

4. Juices.

Yes, fruit juices can contain lots of vitamins and good things, but when you let your child drink them slowly over the course of the day, it leaves their teeth constantly coated in the sugars found in juice and exposed to the corroding acids they contain. Serve juices at mealtimes, and let your child keep water in that sippy cup she seems to always want handy.

5. Sugared cereals.

Cereal makers are trying hard to make us feel better about these boxes of fun by touting their increased whole grain content, but a boatload of sugar (on a starchy flake—see #3) is still a bad idea.

6. Fruit leather and gummies.

It’s so easy to feel good about anything called “fruit,” isn’t it? But those rolled-up sheets of fruit and their gummy-shaped cousins are a whole lot of sticky sugar with very little nutritional return. Go for real fruit instead, which doesn’t adhere to tooth surfaces so easily.

7. Sports drinks.

The association with activity and exercise can subtly mask the real content of most sports drinks—sugar and acids. Some studies have even shown sports drinks to be more damaging than carbonated soft drinks on tooth enamel. So save these for immediately after intense activity, or eliminate them from your kids’ diet altogether.

8. Acidic citrus fruits.

Some kids develop a taste for really tart citrus fruits like lemons and limes. But be aware that frequent snacking or sucking on these fruits exposes their teeth to highly corrosive levels of acids.

9. Sour candies.

Many of the tangy “sour” candies that kids crave are made with a one-two punch of bad ingredients—sugar and high acid content. If the candies are sticky (see #1) that’s yet another strike against them.

10. ANYTHING nibbled or sipped on all day.

Dental health experts say that our increased habit of snacking between meals is one of the main culprits when it comes to the spike in kid cavities. Limit snacks between meals, and require brushing after them. Offer more water—especially fluoridated water—which strengthens tooth enamel and cleanses tooth surfaces of damaging food residue.

Related Resource: Dental Health: Dental Questions, Dental Answers

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