We all know that sugary foods like candy, cookies and cake can cause tooth decay, but some foods that cause problems may surprise you.  Parents who limit dessert consumption are surprised to learn that some snacks that they consider healthy may be causing decay problems.  Starchy foods like bread, chips, cereal bars, some cereals and granola bars can cause problems too.  These foods tend to stick to teeth and mix with an enzyme in saliva to cause an acidic reaction.  Dried fruit also tends to stick to teeth and is acidic in nature.   

Acidic drinks like fruit juice and soda, even diet soda, can also cause problems.  Many of my patients assume that diet soda will not harm their teeth because it is sugar free, but the acidic nature of it can cause damage.  I recommend keeping these drinks to a minimum, but if you are a serious soda addict who can’t kick the habit, try using a straw to help the liquid bypass the teeth more effectively.  A recent study in the Journal of Periodontology, demonstrated that green tea may have a beneficial effect on teeth and gums. 

Another sometimes surprising problem is tooth decay in children’s front teeth when a sippy cup is used for a prolonged time, especially when the child drinks a considerable amount of juice or sugary substances.  With the design of a sippy cup, children often purse their lips around the cup but do not open their teeth around it.  This can cause the front teeth to be directly exposed to the acids in the juice on a regular basis.  Some sippy cups are being designed with straws now which causes children to open their teeth to take a sip.  As an aside, open cups or cups with straws are better for speech development in young children as well. 

Young children often have more snacks throughout their day as their bodies require this frequent refueling.  Frequent snacking can set teeth up for constant exposure to decay causing substances.   While brushing teeth each time a snack is eaten may not be a reasonable expectation, drinking or swishing water in the mouth to dislodge and remove decay causing substances is a good habit to establish for children and adults.