Choose (Dark) Chocolate Over Crackers! - Simple Swaps for Healthier Teeth
posted: Sep. 17, 2018.
A pediatric dentist advising you to give your child dark chocolate instead of the ever-popular fish-shaped crackers? It sounds crazy, right? Well, this post is the "Eat this, not that" for your teeth. And I will explain why. Just keep reading.
More and more, we are seeing the connection between diet and nutrition and overall health. As one might guess, this applies to your oral health, too. In fact, simple changes in your child’s diet may be the answer to keeping cavities away.
Cavities are caused when cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth feeds off simple sugars and causes acid plaque. This plaque attacks the enamel of the tooth and causes it to soften and eventually creates holes, or cavities in the tooth.
So, we know that sugar sitting on your teeth is not a good thing. It would make sense to choose foods that we feel are low in sugar. And this does help. But, it turns out, there’s more to it. In fact, it’s not just the amount of sugar that matters when we are trying to avoid cavities. There are actually three factors that impact the way food affects your teeth:
2) Sugar concentration
Stickiness- Not all foods are created equal. Flour seems to be the culprit behind a food’s stickiness. Think about it this way, when you eat an apple or baby carrots, there’s no food clinging to your teeth. When you eat crackers or pretzels, you will have food debris sticking to your teeth. Any food or sugar remaining on the teeth becomes a breeding ground for cavity-causing bacteria.
Sugar concentration- It makes sense that food lower in sugars are better for your teeth (and your body). But, contrary to popular belief, the amount of sugar is not the full story. In fact, it appears that when it comes to dental caries (cavities), it is the sugar concentration more than the actual amount, that actually matters.
This concept is pretty mind-blowing and also pretty important to understand! Basically, when choosing between foods that have the same amount of simple sugars, you can make a better choice for your teeth by choosing the one that also contains fat- or more fat. Why? Dr. Roger Lucas, DDS, explains it well when he says, “When you take away fat, you are indirectly increasing the concentration of sugar.”
Why does the concentration matter? A 2014 in vitro study* that found that whole milk is not acidic enough to demineralize enamel, but skim milk can demineralize enamel. This study confirmed that it is the concentration of sugars in the foods we choose, more than the amount of sugar, that contributes to dental caries.
By taking the fat out of a food, you are raising the sugar concentration. Fat doesn’t cause cavities. Sugars and starches do. So, you want to pick the food that has the lower sugar concentration, not necessarily the lowest sugar content.
What’s an example of choosing a better snack option? Swap snacks like Goldfish crackers for dark chocolate (at least 70%). This sounds crazy, but when you look at the two snacks, you see that while they have similar sugar content, dark chocolate has a higher fat content, and thus a lower sugar concentration. It also sticks to the teeth less, offers antioxidants, and parents are far less likely to allow their child to walk around eating dark chocolate bars all day long, like we often do with crackers and other easily portable snacks.
Frequency- Each time you eat or drink, the teeth are attacked for about 20 minutes, until the saliva has time to neutralize the acids and wash the bacteria away. Limiting the times this happens throughout the day can decrease the damage done to the teeth. This is especially true when children are snacking on crackers, sticky fruit chews and other common snack foods constantly throughout the day.
Other great options are nuts, cheese, crunchy vegetables and fruits, meats and yogurt. While most fruits anad vegetables have virtually no fat content, they also don't stick to your child's teeth and can be easily washed awayw ith water after eating. Remember, it's a combination fo the stickiness, the sugar content and the frequency of eating that cause cavities.
The truth of it is, diet and nutrition should be your first line of defense for healthy teeth. Brushing, flossing and fluoride should be the second.
Your oral health is not something that has to be left to chance. Good nutrition and good oral healthcare, along with regular checkups with your pediatric dentist, can keep the cavities away! Come let Anderson Pediatric Dentistry give you and your child Something to Smile About!