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Sugary snacks taste so good — but they aren't so good for your teeth
or your body. The candies, cakes, cookies and other sugary foods that
kids love to eat between meals can cause tooth decay. Some surgary foods
have a lot of fat in them, too. Kids who consume sugary snacks eat many
different kinds of sugar every day, including table sugar (sucrose) and
corn sweeteners (fructose). Starchy snacks can also break down into
sugars once they're in your mouth.
How do sugars attack your teeth?
Invisible germs called bacteria live in your mouth all the time. Some
of these bacteria form a sticky material called plaque on the surface
of the teeth. When you put sugar in your mouth, the bacteria in the
plaque gobble up the sweet stuff and turn it into acids. These acids are
powerful enough to dissolve the hard enamel that covers your teeth.
That's how cavities get started. If you don't eat much sugar, the
bacteria can't produce as much of the acid that eats away enamel.
How can I "snack smart" to protect myself from tooth decay?
Before you start munching on a snack, ask yourself what's in the food
you've chosen. Is it loaded with sugar? If it is, think again. Another
choice would be better for your teeth. And keep in mind that certain
kinds of sweets can do more damage than others. Gooey or chewy sweets
spend more time sticking to the surface of your teeth. Because sticky
snacks stay in your mouth longer than foods that you quickly chew and
swallow, they give your teeth a longer sugar bath.
You should also think about when and how often you eat snacks. Do you
nibble on sugary snacks many times throughout the day, or do you
usually just have dessert after dinner? Damaging acids form in your
mouth every time you eat a sugary snack. The acids continue to affect
your teeth for at least 20 minutes before they are neutralized and can't
do any more harm. So, the more times you eat sugary snacks during the
day, the more often you feed bacteria the fuel they need to cause tooth
If you eat sweets, it's best to eat them as dessert after a main meal
instead of several times a day between meals. Whenever you eat sweets —
in any meal or snack — brush your teeth well with a fluoride toothpaste
When you're deciding about snacks, think about:
The number of times a day you eat sugary snacks
How long the sugary food stays in your mouth
The texture of the sugary food (Chewy? Sticky?)
If you snack after school, before bedtime, or other times during the
day, choose something without a lot of sugar or fat. There are lots of
tasty, filling snacks that are less harmful to your teeth—and the rest
of your body — than foods loaded with sugars and low in nutritional
value. Snack smart!
Low-fat choices like raw vegetables, fresh fruits, or whole-grain
crackers or bread are smart choices. Eating the right foods can help
protect you from tooth decay and other diseases. Next time you reach for
a snack, pick a food from the list inside or make up your own menu of
non-sugary, low-fat snack foods from the basic food groups.
How can you snack smart? Be choosy!
Pick a variety of foods from these groups:
Fresh fruits and raw vegetables
Unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices
Canned fruits in natural juices
Tortilla chips (baked, not fried)
Milk and dairy products:
Low or non-fat milk
Low or non-fat yogurt
Low or non-fat cheese
Low or non-fat cottage cheese
Meat, nuts and seeds:
Others (these snacks combine foods from the different groups):
Choose sugary foods less often
Avoid sweets between meals
Eat a variety of low or non-fat foods from the basic groups
Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste after snacks and meals
The foods listed in this leaflet have not all been tested for their
decay-causing potential. However, knowledge to date indicates that they
are less likely to promote tooth decay than are some of the heavily
sugared foods children often eat between meals.
Candy bars aren't the only culprits. Foods such as pizza, breads, and
hamburger buns may also contain sugars. Check the label. The new food
labels identify sugars and fats on the Nutrition Facts panel on the
package. Keep in mind that brown sugar, honey, molasses and syrups also
react with bacteria to produce acids, just as refined table sugar does.
These foods also are potentially damaging to teeth.
Your child's meals and snacks should include a variety of foods from
the basic food groups, including fruits and vegetables; grains,
including breads and cereals; milk and dairy products; and meat, nuts
and seeds. Some snack foods have greater nutritional value than others
and will better promote your child's growth and development. However, be
aware that even some fresh fruits, if eaten in excess, may promote
tooth decay. Children should brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste
after snacks and meals. (So should you!)
Please note: These general recommendations may need to be adapted
for children on special diets because of diseases or conditions that
interfere with normal nutrition.
If there were ever a reason to properly care for your teeth, Acute Necrotizing Ulverative Gingivitis (ANUG) would be one of them.This is the first of many posts we will be featuring on the blog highlighting diseases that result from poor oral hygiene.
Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis (ANUG), which is also known as trench
mouth or Vincent's Stomatitis, is a painful bacterial infection and
ulceration of the gums. The term "trench mouth" comes from World War I,
when the disorder was common among soldiers. The mouth normally contains
a balance of different microorganisms. ANUG occurs when there is an
overabundance of normal mouth bacteria resulting in infection of the
gums, which develop painful ulcers. Viruses may be involved in allowing
the bacteria to overgrow.
Symptoms of ANUG include:
Profuse gum bleeding in response to any pressure or irritation
Gums appear reddened and swollen
Grayish film on the gums
Crater-like ulcers between the teeth
Treating ANUG typically requires antibiotics and dental treatment.
Irrigation of the mouth with salt water or peroxide solution often helps
to relieve symptoms. Rest, a balanced diet, no smoking, and avoiding
hot and spicy foods are also important.