Are all snacks the same when it comes to dental health? The answer of course is no. As much as we all love sugary treats, snacks that have a high sugar content are not good for our teeth or for our bodies. Snacks such as candy, cake, cookies, and other pastries contain sugar, sucrose, or fructose that attract bacteria in your mouth. Starchy snacks can also break down into sugars once they are in your mouth so they are not healthy for your teeth either.
Did you know that the sticky material in your mouth called plaque has bacteria in it that can attack the sugar in your mouth and turn it into acids that can then attack the enamel on your teeth, which will then lead to dental cavities? If you eat less sugary snacks, you won’t have as many bacteria in your mouth and you will have less dental decay.
So what snacks do your teeth love? To make your teeth strong and healthy choose snacks that are not sweet, chewy or sticky and instead make your choice of snack things that are healthy for your teeth like fruits like fresh berries or citrus, and vegetables like baby carrots or tomatoes. Choose melons, pineapple chunks, tangerines, cucumber slices, and homemade potato slices are healthy snack choices. Low-fat snack foods and whole grain breads are also good snack choices.
Healthy grain choices include plain bagels, unbuttered popcorn, baked tortilla chips, low-salt pretzels, and pasta. Good choices for low or non-fat snacks include low or non-fat cheese slices, yogurt, and cottage cheese. Other healthy snacks your teeth will love include sliced lean meats, such as chicken or turkey, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or unsalted nuts. You can also choose foods that are a combination of the above foods such as pizza and tacos.
When making your snack choices be aware that not all sugary foods are easy to spot. Candy bars are a no-brainer when it comes to sugary snacks but what about foods that contain honey, molasses, syrups and brown sugar? These sugars can damage teeth too. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, unsweetened cereals, non-fat foods and nuts and seeds so that snack time does not become boring. Kids need variety.
It is OK to choose a favorite sugar-containing snack for a special occasion like a birthday or a holiday just be sure that you brush and floss directly afterwards, your teeth will thank you.
Parents can help encourage healthy snack choices by making sure that they make these sugar-free, healthy snacks available to their kids. Keep a bowl of fresh fruit within reach of the kids especially when they come home from school.