There are many factors that contribute to tooth decay, but the form of the snack and the frequency of snacking are probably the most important. The bacteria that cause tooth decay must have food to create the acids that break down the tooth’s enamel. Starchy foods such as crackers, chips and some cookies stick to the teeth. Check your child’s molars (back teeth) for food residues twenty minutes after a snack. If some food particles still remain on the chewing surfaces, this is a snack to avoid.
Sugar is not so bad as we once believed because it can be cleared from the tooth within minutes by the saliva. Examples of foods that should clear within one minute are white bread, raisins, bananas, ice cream, and chocolate. Plain chocolate, especially dark chocolate is a good choice for a sweet snack. Gummy candy and fruit roll-ups clear within minutes. The frequency of snacking plays a big part in decay too. Even if a food clears within a minute, repeated snacking can cause decay. So, the frequency of snacking also plays a big part in cavities.
Combining fat and protein makes for a great snack. Peanut butter is a good example of this combo. Foods high in calcium such as milk (chocolate, strawberry or white) and cheese help with the formation of strong teeth and bones. Eating cheese has been shown to reduce tooth decay.
When the permanent teeth come in, the enamel is soft because it is not completely calcified. The final phase of calcification occurs in the mouth. Milk, not juice or soft drinks, should be flowing over those brand new incisors (front teeth).
Look for chewing gum with xylitol instead of sorbitol. Unlike sorbitol, xylitol actually reduces decay by starving the decay-causing bacteria.
The combination of sugar and acid in juices, sports and soft drinks causes enamel to breakdown and decay will eventually occur. This is especially important during orthodontic treatment.