Sneaky snacks: is your pantry harming your child’s teeth?

Jul 28, 2023 | Blog

In today’s post I want to talk to you parents about what I believe is the most important aspect of cavity prevention.  No, it’s not brushing teeth, although that’s a close second in my mind.  The most important aspect of a child’s oral health over the long term are the choices that we as parents make as we wander the supermarket aisles. 

As our small humans grow and develop, they’re constantly burning fuel, and that means they need to eat ALL THE TIME.  What they are eating has huge impacts on their growth and development, including their teeth and jaws. It also affects their ability to remain cavity free.  Candies, gummies, cookies, granola bars and other sugary snacks obviously should be limited to special occasions, instead of having them readily available for our kids on the daily.  However, there are many other snacks that may be sitting in your pantry right now, flying under the radar but that can be equally as bad.  Today I’d like to share a list of a few of the worst culprits and give you some alternatives so that you can help set your child up for success.


1. Goldfish Crackers: These beloved fish-shaped crackers stick to teeth and contain processed carbohydrates that break down into sugars. Bacteria in the mouth feed on these sugars, producing acids that attack tooth enamel. I give them their very own bullet point because they are SO common and so incredibly bad for your child’s teeth.

2. Fruit Snacks and Gummies: These seemingly innocent treats often contain high amounts of added sugars and sticky substances that cling to teeth. Prolonged exposure to sugar can contribute to tooth decay and cavities.

3. Potato Chips and Crackers: These starchy snacks tend to get lodged in the crevices of teeth, promoting bacterial growth. Additionally, chips often contain high levels of salt, which can lead to dehydration and dry mouth, reducing saliva’s natural protective properties.

4. Sugary Drinks: Beverages such as soda, fruit juices, and sports drinks are loaded with sugars that bathe the teeth in acid, leading to enamel erosion and cavities.

5. Bars: The ingredients which “stick” the bars together are also great at sticking the bars to your teeth. Even those that have limited ingredients (like dates) and are marketed as being more healthy can still have the unintended effect of being harmful to your child’s teeth because they are sticky and loaded with sugar.


Now that we know which snacks to avoid, let’s explore some delicious and nutritious alternatives that support dental health.

1. Crunchy Fruits and Vegetables: Opt for fresh, crispy choices like apple slices, carrot sticks, or celery. Their high water content stimulates saliva production, helping to rinse away harmful acids and food particles.

2. Cheese and Yogurt: These calcium-rich dairy products promote healthy teeth and gums while providing a protein boost. Cheese also has a natural ability to neutralize acids in the mouth.  Note: A fun alternative to the traditional cup of yogurt is to fill popsicle molds with fruit-flavored Greek yogurt and freeze them.  The kids get a tasty, cold treat that is loaded with protein and great for their teeth as well.

3. Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds are excellent choices for teeth-friendly snacking. They provide essential vitamins and minerals while stimulating saliva flow for a natural defense against cavities.

4. Whole Grain Snacks: Replace processed chips and crackers with whole grain options like air-popped popcorn, whole wheat pretzels, or whole grain tortilla chips. These snacks are less likely to stick to teeth and contain more fiber, benefiting overall oral health.

5. Water and Milk: Encourage your child to drink water throughout the day, as it helps wash away food particles and keeps the mouth hydrated. Milk is also a great choice (although not after brushing their teeth at night), as it provides essential nutrients and contains calcium for strong teeth.

By thoughtfully selecting teeth-friendly snacks, we can contribute to our children’s oral health and overall well-being. Swapping out harmful options for healthier alternatives like crunchy fruits, dairy products, nuts, whole grains, and water helps protect their precious smiles from tooth decay and cavities.

As a parent myself, I recognize that practicality, portability and preference play huge roles in the snacks that we feed our children.  The occasional handful of goldfish crackers, granola bar, juice box or bag of Cheetos aren’t going to fast track your child to dentures.  However, continually giving them these kinds of snacks without the healthier options mixed in to provide variety and give their mouths the chance to recover from the onslaught of added sugars and processed carbohydrates can certainly cause dental disease over time. 

Being conscientious of the foods we’re giving to our kids will ultimately set them up for success, not only in the short term, but also in the long term by creating healthier practices and habits as they continue into adolescence and adulthood.  Providing your child with a healthy diet, including thoughtful snack options, will give them the best chance at a cavity-free life.  Their bodies and their teeth will certainly thank you for it.

Are you looking for better guidance on providing healthy snacks for your child? Contact us to make an appointment so we can discuss your child’s diet and how we can help give them the best chance at a healthy smile!

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