Since February kickstarts National Dental Health Month, our team here at Kids Healthy Teeth has decided to compile a series of blogs that uncover four surprising foods that are bad for teeth. We know it can be time consuming to read every single ingredient on the nutrition facts, so we’re doing it for you!
First on the list is a food trend that’s been especially popular with babies and toddlers. It’s none other than the squeezable, pureed fruit has pouches that are marketed as healthy and convenient. You can find these packets in almost any flavor and combination of fruits and vegetables. Some of them are even labeled organic and all-natural. While it may seem like pureed fruit is a great, tooth-friendly snack for babies, these pouches are a lot more insidious than they may seem.
Why are they so bad? Well, the packets are extremely high in sugar. For example, Gerber’s organic apple puree contains 11 grams of sugar. Other flavors have as much as 20 grams! This is because the fruit contains natural sugars and when it’s condensed into a puree, it’s even more loaded with the sweet stuff.
Paul Casamassimo, research director for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, explains to NPR that the “constant exposure of sugar on their teeth is detrimental.” His concern is that parents may be feeding their children these pouches regularly because they seem healthy. In reality, these sugary treats should be viewed as a dessert and only enjoyed occasionally.
Squeezable fruit differs from regular fruit because it’s concentrated and lacks much of the fiber that normal fruit has. The texture of the puree also tends to get stuck on the teeth, allowing bacteria more time to grow.
Unless parents are active in making sure that their children brush twice a day and rinse with water after eating, kids who frequently eat these snacks run a greater risk of cavities. Regular fruit is a much healthier option for the teeth and it’s eco-friendly, too! Talk to your pediatric dentist about what foods are best for your child’s growth and development. Our doctor at Kids Healthy Teeth is always happy to help.
Where the Sugar Lies
When we think of foods that are bad for our teeth, we immediately think of candy. Bacteria thrive on sugar, and candy is one of the most obvious culprits. To avoid cavities, parents often give children crackers and baked goods to satisfy their cravings in lieu of candy. Even those who are vigilant about brushing may not think twice about the effect of starchy foods on their oral health.
The truth is sweets aren’t the only thing that can cause cavities. Potato chips, biscuits, crackers, bread, and other starches are bad news as well. These items become soft or sticky when chewed, easily getting lodged into your teeth. While they may not taste sweet, their starches break down into sugar by enzymes in the mouth. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry states that starchy foods may even be worse for your teeth than candy because of the amount of time they stick on teeth after a snack.
According to a national survey commissioned by the AAPD, 96% of U.S. adults with children under 12 thought a cracker was better for teeth than a piece of caramel. The AAPD continued saying: “The truth is that starches can lead to cavities just as sugars can, and caramels dissolve more quickly from the mouth than crackers…A cracker may be more figure-friendly, but it is not a teeth-friendly snack.”
If you are looking for alternatives for your child, our Katy pediatric dentist suggests snacking on apple slices or celery with hummus or peanut butter for flavor. These items are a lot healthier for your child’s teeth! This is also not to say you should stop giving your child starchy foods at all. Rather, we encourage families to consume everything in moderation and always make sure to brush and floss at the end of the day.
While this doesn’t mean bread and starches are entirely unhealthy, it certainly sheds some light on seemingly innocent foods may be worse for our teeth than we think.
A Drinking Problem
Everyone knows soda is unhealthy. With 30 to 40 grams of sugar per can, it’s an abomination to dentists everywhere! When looking for healthy alternatives to soda and other sugary drinks, many parents consider fruit juice to be a great choice. Since fruit juice is high in essential vitamins, fruit juice is often considered a much better choice than other beverages. Unfortunately, this is not quite the case.
Fruit juice contains sugars and citric acid that can cause wear away the enamel, leading to tooth decay at an early age. For example, apple juice has as much as 24 grams of sugar per cup which is just as bad as soda. Grape juice is even worse, with nearly 36 grams. And that’s natural juice! Concentrated versions may have even more added sugar! Furthermore, many brands strain out the pulp in fruit juice, so there’s less fiber content.
Consuming fruit juice isn’t the problem. What really causes cavities is when we consume too much juice and forget to rinse or brush afterwards. Children are especially at risk of cavities if they drink from bottles or sippy cups. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that kids have no more than 6 to 8 ounces of citrus fruit juice per day. It’s also a good idea to limit your children’s consumption of juice to once per day, preferably with a mea. Drinking from a bottle or sippy cup exposes your child to sugar all day without any opportunity to flush it out with water or saliva.
It seems surprising, but that dried fruits like raisins can be a major no-no for teeth. Though they may be packed with vitamins, they are also sweet and sticky…a double threat to your oral health.
Raisins, mangoes, coconut shreds, dates, figs, craisins, and other dried fruit are considered a healthy, tasty snacking alternative for road trips or long days. These snacks can be kept for long periods of time, are easy to pack in lunch boxes, and provide much-needed fiber. However, they are also extremely high in sugar. Since all the water content has been removed from these items, you’ll also need to eat more than usual to get full. This means you’ll be consuming way more sugar than you normally would with regular fruit and there’s no water content to flush it away. This sugar also tends to stay on teeth longer than the sugar from plain fruit because it’s so sticky, creating the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
Saliva is your first line of defense against cavities; it washes away food particles so that they don’t sit on your teeth. Bacteria turn starches and sugar in your mouth to acid that destroys your enamel. That’s why it’s important to brush or rinse after eating.
If you have the option, pick real fruit over dried fruit whenever possible. You might also want to give your teeth a quick rinse by swishing your mouth with water after a snack or meal. Last but not least, you should always remember to brush and floss regularly as part of your daily routine.
For more bad snacks and food for your teeth check out our Kids Healthy Teeth blog where Dr. Elizabeth Chen and her pediatric staff provide all the latest information.