Healthy Snacking

Healthy Snacking
Posted on 04/07/2016

School-aged children are in a constant state of physical growth and mental development. These bodily processes require energy in the form of calories consumed in foods and beverages. Therefore, most children want to consume small portions at frequent intervals throughout the day.

This “grazing” pattern is normal and acceptable in regard to dental health as long as parents understand the factors that make teeth vulnerable to the bacteria that cause decay. Aside from individual susceptibility, the main risk factors to developing decay are the frequency and duration of carbohydrate exposure.

Understanding Fermentable Carbohydrates

It is common knowledge that candy and sodas are bad for teeth. However, there are some otherwise healthy consumables that can contribute to dental decay. For example, milk has natural sugars that can be harmful if allowed to pool in the mouth for prolonged periods.

Carbohydrates begin to be digested in the mouth by the saliva and break down into sugars. This means that more complex carbs, like whole wheat items, are safer for teeth. Keep in mind that these items do tend to get stuck in the pits and fissures of premolars and molars which prolongs exposure.

Sticky, Sweet, and Acidic Foods and Beverages

Fruit juices are high in natural sugars and depending on the type of juice may be quite acidic. Generally, citrus fruit juices have high levels of sugar and acidity.

Fruit gummies and dried fruits have the same natural sugars and are very sticky. Therefore, they increase exposure time by adhering to teeth.

Better Snacking Suggestions

If reading this you find yourself thinking that the spectrum of simple and tasty snacks is much narrower than you’d imagined, here are some suggestions:

  • Salad
  • Veggies and dip
  • Jerky
  • Chicken wings or nuggets
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Quesadilla with corn, whole wheat, or veggie tortilla
  • Cheese and whole wheat crackers
  • Peanut butter and celery or apples
  • Nuts

As a parent, Dr. Meckler understands that children can be picky eaters and we would not suggest withholding the things they like altogether. We simply want to stress that care should be taken when children do eat or drink items that put them at higher risk for decay. Limiting snacking between meals decreases the risk of developing decay. Brushing and flossing after eating is also a helpful preventive measure.