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What Makes a Snack Good or Bad For Your Child’s Teeth?

You’ve probably heard that one of the most important things when picking snacks that are good for your child's teeth is the amount of sugar in the snack. Eating and drinking snacks with lots of sugar can lead to tooth decay. However, you might be surprised to find that it’s not just candies, chocolate, and pop that contain sugar. Other foods that contain lots of sugar include:
  • biscuits and cookies
  • white bread, buns, and muffins
  • jam and honey
  • fruit juices (even the "no sugar added" ones!)

Another important thing is how long the snack will stay in the mouth. Sticky foods can get stuck in between the teeth and stay in the mouth longer, making them even worse for your child’s teeth! Snacks like dried fruit or chewy candies not only contain lots of sugar, but are sticky as well. Crunchy, fibrous foods are a much better choice.

When choosing snacks for your kids, try to pick ones that aren't full of sugar, and won't get stuck between the teeth. Some healthy snacks that you can try with your kids are:
  • raw or cooked vegetables
  • slices of crispy fruits such as apples
  • rice crackers
  • cheese
  • eggs
  • nuts and seeds (but not for younger children due to risk of choking!)
  • water (it is much better for your teeth than juice!)

How Often You Snack Matters Too!

When you eat or drink something sugary, the acids made by your mouth bacteria last about an hour before they are washed away by your saliva. This means that every time your kids eat or drink something sugary, it takes an about hour for their tooth enamel to stop dissolving!

Because of this, it is better to eat your sugary foods together, rather than spreading them out throughout the day. If your kids are going to eat sugary foods, try getting them to eat them as a dessert right after another meal, rather than in between meals. This will minimize the amount of time their teeth are exposed to acids, and help prevent tooth decay!

So remember: give your kids less sugary and sticky snacks, and have them snack less frequently throughout the day. This will do a lot to help prevent tooth decay!

Glossary and Additional Information

Crunchy foods are better for your child’s teeth because they won’t get stuck in between as often, and they may even help to clean the teeth!

When you eat or drink something sugary, the bacteria in your mouth turn that sugar into acids which contribute to tooth decay by dissolving tooth enamel. To learn more about acids and tooth decay, check out Tooth Decay: Bugs and Acids!

Enamel is the hard outer coating of your tooth. Its job is to protect the softer inner areas of your tooth. If a tooth's enamel dissolves away, the sensitive inner part of the tooth may be exposed, causing a toothache!

Deery C, Hosey M, Waterhouse PJ. Pediatric Cariology. London: Quintessence Publishing Co. Ltd.; 2004.
Government of Alberta Health and Wellness. A Parent's Guide to Healthy Teeth for Children Birth to Six Years. Available at: Accessed 07/03, 2009.
Milgrom P, Weinstein P. Early Childhood Caries: A Team Approach to Prevention and Treatment. United States of America: Continuing Dental Education; 1999.
Welbury RR, Duggal MS, Hosey M. Pediatric Dentistry. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2005.

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