The Connection Between Diet & Tooth Decay with Dr. Garrett

Did you know that your child’s diet is one of the most important controllable factors regarding the health of their smile? We know parents want their kiddos to have big, healthy smiles, and we are here to help! We sat down with one of our dentists, Dr. Garrett, and got the scoop on a few ways that you can help your child maintain a healthy smile with the help of a good diet.

How Does Diet Affect Teeth?

While Dr. Garrett could’ve given us an in-depth chemistry and biology lesson, he kept it simple for us! Basically, tooth decay is caused by bacteria that live in our mouths, which is very normal. The bacteria’s diet consists mainly of carbohydrates, which their metabolism breaks down and secretes as acid. This acid demineralizes—or creates holes and cavities in our teeth. 

So, when we stick to a carb-heavy diet, we provide the bacteria with a plentiful supply of nutrients that it needs to create the acid that causes cavities! Don’t worry. This doesn’t mean that we need to cut out carbs completely—they are still an essential part of a healthy diet, but we need to be intentional about how and when we choose to eat carbs. 

Being Intentional with Carbs

When we consider the diets and snacking habits of our kiddos, two variables are absolutely critical: timing and content. What are we feeding them, and in what context? 

For the most part, Dr. Garrett discourages all refined carbohydrates. Sugars are the most purely refined form of carbohydrate, but this also includes snacks from a bag, like Goldfish, chips, Cheez-Its, and other crackers, as well as granola, brownies, cookies, and other sweets. Whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, proteins, dairy, and nut-based foods make for the best snacks because they lack refined carbohydrates.

Obviously, exceptions are made, and we all love the occasional piece of candy or handful of Goldfish, but the context in which we choose to make an exception is critical. Refined carbohydrates from the likes of crackers, candy, and sugary drinks stick to our teeth, allowing the bacteria to feed on them—if you aren’t sure what we’re talking about, take a look in your child’s mouth 15-minutes after giving them a handful of Goldfish.

Next time you plan to make an exception, try adding some peanut butter or cheese to the crackers, as the mix of fat and protein cuts the carbohydrates, making them less likely to cause cavities. Similarly, if your child wants a glass of apple juice, try giving it to them with breakfast so that the whole foods from their meal can lessen the impact of the sugary juice.

5 Tips for a Healthy Smile

Being a parent is difficult—there’s no manual or step-by-step instructions, and there are a million day-to-day things that we have to keep track of, so oral hygiene and a healthy smile are often put on the backburners. We put together a handful of easy tips to make protecting your child’s smile the easiest part of parenting!

  1. Avoid a snacktime that consists solely of crackers. Add some cheese or nut-based butter to cut the carbs!
  2. Have your kids drink their juice with a meal rather than on its own.
  3. Reward your kiddos with fun treats like stickers to avoid any association between rewards and candy.
  4. Portion-control your kids’ snacking rather than letting them walk off with the whole box!
  5. Most importantly, give yourself grace! Parenting is a great challenge, and none of us are perfect. Be proud of yourself for the steps you take, and set goals to keep moving forward!