Daily Food Habits and Routines That Affect Your Dental Health (Especially Children) – Part 2

How To Protect Your Smile

To protect your smile you need to know about the foods you eat and how brushing/flossing every day affects your overall dental health and potential for cavities. Five important factors exist to protect your teeth from cavities (dental decay): sealants, fluoride (from tap water or toothpaste), brushing/flossing, food, and saliva.

There are 3 major factors in the development of tooth decay:

  1. Your teeth
  2. Plaque on your teeth and tongue
  3. Sugary foods (carbohydrates)

Plaque is the combination of bacteria and food remaining on your teeth after you’ve eaten or had something to drink other than water. The bacteria in the plaque on your teeth and tongue create by-products that cause cavities and bad breath.

Bacteria use food containing carbohydrates (sugary foods and starch-containing foods such as bread, pasta, potatoes) as energy. The bacteria use this sugar to make a sticky film (plaque) on your teeth and tongue.

Examples of carbohydrate-dense foods include:

  • Sugared pop or gum, candy bars, chocolate, hard candies, raisins, syrup, juice
  • Baked goods such as cookies, cakes, donuts, sweetened cereals
  • Potato chips, Doritos, graham crackers, Teddy Grahams

As the bacteria digest carbohydrates in the plaque on your teeth, they create acid as a byproduct. This starts to attack your teeth 20 to 40 minutes after eating or drinking something other than water. This acid will weaken the tooth, which leads to the formation of cavities.

To prevent this, limit how much and how often you eat. If possible, eating high sugar or starchy foods with a meal to lessen the chance of getting cavities. At snack times select fruit, cheese, pretzels, raw vegetables – things which have less sugar and sticky texture.

Three meals and 2-3 snacks a day is appropriate for a 3 to 5 year old. Allowing children to snack continually only heightens the amount and duration of acid attack on their teeth, which increases their chance of getting cavities. It also lessens their appetite for eating balanced meals at mealtime.

Last but not least, brushing and flossing your teeth and tongue in the morning and before bed again is essential to remove the bacteria and plaque off the teeth. Following these steps will increase the health of your teeth. Smile!


Author: Michelle Hanson

Michelle Hanson, MA, RD, LD is Fresh & Natural Food’s Registered Dietitian. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics with a minor in Community Health from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She is a registered dietitian and current member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Michelle has been a nutrition consultant for numerous years as well as a nutrition research director at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

Michelle is passionate about food and nutrition and believes in helping people find simple, realistic ways to make healthy eating a part of their everyday lifestyle.
If you are interested in meeting Michelle or have questions for her, you can email her at: michelle@fnfoods.com. She will look forward to meeting you!