• Healthy Snacks to Prevent Tooth Decay in Kids

    image You may often find yourself giving your child snacks between meals or in the school lunchbox, but can snacking promote tooth decay? Which foods are teeth-friendly and which ones should you avoid the next time your child craves a little snack?

    Understanding Tooth Decay

    Bacteria live in our mouths. When we feast, so do bacteria. Bacteria particularly enjoy breaking down sugars and starches left on the teeth, which leads to the formation of plaque and acid. Acid created by bacteria can damage the teeth if left on the tooth surface for 20 minutes or more. This can lead to tooth decay.

    Sticky and Sweet: A Good Treat?

    When selecting snacks for your child, read the ingredient label to find out if the snack contains sugars or starches. Select snacks that are sugar-free or unsweetened. Some sugary snacks and drinks to avoid include:
    • Candies
    • Mints
    • Cookies
    • Pastries
    • Soda and juices
    If you do decide to give your child a sugary treat, do so at mealtime rather than as a snack. For instance, after dinner you can serve your child a dessert. More saliva is usually generated around mealtime, which makes it easier for food to be washed away from tooth surfaces.
    Sugary foods may be obvious tooth decay culprits. But sticky, chewy snacks can also lead to tooth decay. Foods like granola bars, raisins, oatmeal, and peanut butter tend to linger on the teeth longer and are not easily washed away by saliva. This does not mean that you should avoid giving your child these foods, simply encourage your child to brush after a chewy snack.

    Teeth-Friendly Snack Options

    Here are some snack options for your child that are both teeth-friendly and healthy:

    Fruits and Vegetables

    Give your child fruits and vegetables that have high water content, like:
    • Melons
    • Pears
    • Celery
    • Cucumbers
    Limit those that are high in concentrated sugars. (Yes, fruits and vegetables do contain natural sugars.) Some fruits to limit include bananas and raisins. Also encourage your child to brush after eating fruit with high concentrations of sugar.


    Cheese is a good snack option since it triggers the flow of saliva. Aged cheeses are especially good choices, like:
    • Monterey Jack
    • Cheddar
    • Swiss


    Soda, juice, and milk contain sugar. While milk is important for a growing child, juice and soda can be replaced with water. Water will not harm teeth and will help rinse away food particles. Fluoridated water is also ideal for preventing tooth decay in children 12 years old ans under.. Check the label on bottled water to see if it contains fluoride. For young children, plain water at bedtime is a good choice instead of formula, milk, or juice, which can damage teeth overnight.

    Other Healthy Teeth Tips

    • Limit snacking. Snacking between meals limits the amount of time saliva has to wash away food. This means more food remains in the mouth for bacteria to process. If possible, limit snack time to no more than 1 or 2 times a day.
    • Brush teeth. Have your child brush his teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day. Your child should also brush after every snack and after taking medications, since they may contain sugar. It is also a good idea to floss at least once a day. If brushing or flossing is not possible, have your child rinse with water after snacking to wash away food particles.
    • Build strong teeth. Give your child foods that will build strong teeth, like broccoli, plain yogurt, and milk.
    • See the dentist. Schedule regular dental check-ups for your child.


    American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry http://www.aapd.org

    Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association http://www.mouthhealthy.org


    Canadian Dental Association http://www.cda-adc.ca

    The Canadian Dental Hygienists Association http://www.cdha.ca


    Diet and dental health. Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association website. Available at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/d/diet-and-dental-health. Accessed July 9, 2015.

    Diet and tooth decay. JADA. 2002;133:527.

    Nutrition and your child's dental health. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/childrens-hospital/health-info/ages-stages/childhood/hic-Nutrition-and-Dental-Health. Updated November 24, 2012. Accessed July 9, 2015.

    Smart snacking: treats can be treacherous. Oral Health Kansas website. Available at: http://www.oralhealthkansas.org/pdf/Populations/Snacking-MN%20-%20Copy.pdf. Published 2007. Accessed July 9, 2015

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.