The 5 Worst Foods for Your Children’s Teeth

Soft drinks bad for teeth

As a parent, you want to make sure that your child is eating a healthy diet. When you think of a healthy diet, usually you think of foods that have nutritional value to keep your child’s body full of the vitamins it needs. However, it’s also important to consider how your child’s diet affects their teeth. Things that you may consider healthy foods may actually be part of the worst foods for your teeth.

Certain foods can cause buildups of bacteria and plaque that can lead to oral health problems for your child. Before you make your next trip to the grocery store, make sure you’re aware of the worst foods for tooth decay and take those off of your list. Here are some of the most common tooth-unfriendly foods to avoid –– and to keep your next visit to the pediatric dentist near Reno short and sweet!

  1. Soda

In terms of unhealthy drinks, soda tends to be the number one culprit. You probably know that soda isn’t a healthy choice for your child’s body, but did you know that it’s also one of the worst foods for tooth decay? Bubbly sodas get their carbonation from carbonic acid, which makes soda a very acidic drink. When your teeth are exposed to acid, it wears away at the enamel, and worn-away enamel makes teeth more susceptible to tooth decay. Teeth with eroded enamel are also more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures and sweet foods.

While it may seem counterintuitive, your child should avoid brushing their teeth immediately after drinking soda. The high acid content of soda can soften enamel for up to an hour after drinking. In the meantime, a water rinse can help, and then after an hour passes, your child should be safe to brush. If you remember this tip, you can reduce the potential for your child to need composite fillings down the road.

  1. Fruit Juice

It’s a common idea: skip the soda and opt for juice instead. However, even “healthier” options like fruit juice contain high amounts of sugar that make them some of the worst foods for your teeth. When your child drinks a sugary juice, that sugar then sticks to their teeth. Bacteria in their mouth feeds on the sugar, which creates acid. Like with acidic soda, this acid then wears away at the enamel.

Fruit juice

When choosing a drink for your child, always choose water or milk over sugary juice or soda. If your child does have a sugary drink, have them rinse their mouth with water afterward. Rinsing can help eliminate any excess sugar that sticks to teeth, reducing the risk for tooth decay.

  1. Citrus

Lemons, limes, oranges — all of these fruits are generally considered good for you. However, they’re some of the worst foods for your teeth. Like soda, citrus fruits have extremely high levels of acid, which make them dangerous for your child’s enamel.

The more acidic a fruit, the worse it is for your child’s teeth. The most acidic citrus fruits include lemons, limes, and grapefruits. Oranges, while still acidic, are the least acidic member of the citrus fruit family, and are thus a safer choice in moderation.

Citrus fruits are lauded for their high vitamin C content. Luckily, there are other, less acidic fruits that your child can enjoy without the risk of damaging their teeth. Cantaloupe, watermelon, and bananas all contain high levels of vitamin C and low levels of acid.

If your child enjoys citrus fruit, there are still ways to include these fruits in their diet while minimizing the damage to their teeth. For drinks containing citrus juice, have your child use a straw to avoid direct contact with their teeth. Like with sugary juices, your child can rinse their mouth with water after eating citrus fruit to help dilute the acid. Alternatively, have your child snack on some cheese, whose high pH levels will help neutralize the acidity of the fruit.

Make sure that your child avoids sucking on citrus fruits. They should never put citrus fruits directly against their teeth since the acid exposure will wear down enamel.

  1. Sticky Foods

Anything that can get stuck to your child’s teeth is immediately in the running for worst foods for tooth decay. Snacks like chewy candies, fruit snacks, and even dried fruit can wreak havoc on your child’s teeth. Sticky foods, as the name implies, can stick to your child’s teeth and become a feast for bacteria. The bacteria feeds on the sugar in the food, which can cause tooth decay.

sticky foods

Even worse than regular sticky snacks are sticky sour candies. These are some of the worst foods for your teeth due to the addition of the acidic sour component. Like in soda and citrus fruits, that acid only spells bad news for your child’s enamel.

If your child is craving sweets, chocolate is a much more tooth-friendly option. Chocolate doesn’t stick to teeth or linger in the mouth, meaning that there’s much less sugar for bacteria to feed on.

If your child does indulge in a sticky snack, have them brush their teeth thoroughly afterwards. Flossing can also help remove any clinging bits.

  1. Starches

Starchy foods like potato chips and pretzels seem like unlikely options for the worst foods for your teeth. Don’t let them fool you, though. When chewed, starches break down into sugars that form a gummy paste. This paste then sticks to teeth and even gets into the crevices between teeth. Just like sticky snacks, this sugary paste provides food for bacteria that cause tooth decay.

Try to limit your child’s consumption of foods made from white flour. Instead, choose carbohydrates made from complex carbs like whole grain breads. These contain fewer added sugars and break down less easily in the mouth.

Prevent Food-Related Damage with Regular Cleanings

The worst foods for your teeth may not be the most obvious culprits. Foods high in sugar and acid tend to be the worst foods for tooth decay since they provide food for bacteria and erode enamel. Make an effort to cut harmful foods out of your child’s diet to help keep their teeth healthy. Regular brushing and flossing will also do wonders for your child’s smile, as will regular dental checkups. Find the Tooth Fairy Pediatric Dental location closest to you and schedule your appointment today.