Getting kids to eat healthy snacks can sometimes feel like an epic battle, but throw the idea of healthy snacks “that are also good for their teeth” in there, and most parents want to wave a white flag.
The good news? It’s actually easier than you think to find snacks that pull the double duty of being healthy and good for teeth — all you have to do is keep one big thing in mind: sugar.
High Sugar Snacks and Frequency of Snacking
“We all think of candy as being ‘bad’ and what typically causes cavities,” says Dr. Adam Silevitch, DMD, an attending pediatric dentist at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia, “but in actuality it’s not the candy itself but the sugar (or carbohydrates) in those foods/snacks.” When we eat or drink sugar, bacteria in our mouth feed on it, and use it to make acid that can attack our enamel.
Silevitch goes on to urge parents to think twice about constantly offering snacks like raisins, dried fruit, granola bars, and gummy vitamins because these things can “get stuck in the grooves of teeth and are not easily washed away by saliva, water, or milk.”
Because carbohydrates and sugars can form enamel-attacking acid, Dr. Silevitch urges parents to think about the frequency of snacks: “If our kids are constantly on the go and snacking on chips, pretzels, crackers, etc, even though these snacks aren't typically thought of as bad for our teeth, they are carbohydrates. When we increase the frequency of snacking, it increases the amount of time the sugars are sitting on our teeth, which increases the likelihood of a cavity.”
Dr. Silevitch recommends that parents assist young children when they’re brushing at home, even if little ones want to assert their independence and do it all by themselves. “I tell them that they can brush first, but a grown-up needs to make their teeth extra sparkly.” He also shares the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommendation of using a fluoride toothpaste on children’s teeth.
If you have kids over the age of two, consider using Aquafresh Bubblemint Toothpaste on their pearly whites. Not only does it have a fun flavor, but it includes fluoride to help protect against sugar acid (make sure to talk to your child’s dentist about the appropriate time to start them on a fluoride toothpaste).
Dentist-Approved Snacks For Kids
So what are some dentist-approved snacks that you can feel good about giving your kids?
Cheese sticks, plain yogurt, cottage cheese. According to Dr. Silevitch, these foods are rich in calcium, which can help strengthen teeth.
Fresh veggies and fibrous fruits, like apples. These foods are high in water and fiber, and can help clean teeth.
Nuts like almonds and cashews. Nuts are low in carbohydrates, which means they won’t add to the risk of cavities.