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Stephen Fox D.M.D. | Member American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

Diet & Cavities



Most of the time cavities are due to a diet high in sugary foods and a lack of brushing.

Most of the time cavities are due to a diet high in sugary foods and a lack of brushing and flossing.

Limiting sugar intake and brushing regularly, of course, can help. The longer it takes your child to chew their foods, the longer the residue stays on their teeth, the greater the chances of getting cavities

Every time someone eats, an acid reaction occurs inside their mouth as the bacteria digests the sugars. This reaction lasts approximately 20 minutes. During this time the acid environment can destroy the tooth structure, eventually leading to cavities. The more often sugars are eaten, the more often this reaction takes place.

Consistency of a person’s saliva also makes a difference, thinner saliva breaks up and washes away food more quickly. When a person eats diets high in carbohydrates and sugars they tend to have thicker saliva, which in turn more of the acid-producing bacteria that causes cavities.

Tips for Cavity Prevention:

  • limit frequency of meals and snacks
  • encourage brushing, flossing and rinsing
  • watch what you drink
  • avoid sticky foods
  • make treats part of meals
  • choose nutritious snacks
  • for infants, use a wet gauze or clean washcloth to wipe plaque from teeth and gums; for older children, the best times to brush are after breakfast and before bed with toothbrushes that have soft round-ended (polished) bristles that clean while being gentle on the gums.
  • Dr. Fox may also recommend protective sealants or home fluoride treatments for your child.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Diet and Cavity Prevention

Q. How do I know if my child is getting the appropriate amount of fluoride in their diet?

A. If you do not reside in a community that has fluoridated water or have the appropriate amount of natural fluoride in your well water, your child will need some sort of supplement in their diet. We can help you determine how much of a supplement your child needs based upon their weight, age, current water fluoride levels and brand of toothpaste.

Q. What is an appropriate diet for my child?

A. It is important that your child receives a naturally balanced diet that includes the important nutrients your child needs in order to grow. A daily diet that includes the major food groups of Meat, Fish and Eggs, Vegetables and Fruits, Breads and Cereals as well as Milk and Other Dairy Products.

Q. Can my child’s diet affect their dental health?

A. Absolutely. It is important that you initiate a balanced diet for your child so that their teeth develop appropriately. In addition, this will positively affect healthy gum tissue surrounding the teeth. Please note that a diet high in sugar and other forms of carbohydrates may increase the probability of tooth decay.

Q. How do I create a diet safe for my child’s teeth?

A. As we stated earlier, initiate a balanced diet. Analyze the frequency in which starch based foods are eaten. These types of foods include breads, pasta, potato chips, etc. In addition, sugar is found in more than just candy. All types of sugars can promote tooth decay. For example, most milk-based products contain sugar. A Peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a favorite for bag lunches. Unfortunately, it includes sugar not only in the jelly, but also in the peanut butter. For less sugar and more flavor and nutrients, try replacing jelly with fresh fruit slices (apples, pears, or bananas) or chopped dried fruit. Go easy on the peanut butter, though—it’s high in fat. Choose the “no-salt-added” kind for less sodium.

Q. Should I eliminate all sugar and starch from my child’s diet?

A. Of course not. Many of these foods are incredibly important to your child’s health. Starch based foods are much safer to eat for teeth when eaten with an entire meal. Foods that stick to teeth are also more difficult to wash away by water, saliva or other drinks. Its important you talk to our staff about your child’s diet and maintaining proper dental care.

Q. What helpful information can you give me regarding tooth decay in infants?

A. Most importantly, don’t nurse your children to sleep. Nor should you put them to bed with a bottle of mile, juice or formula. When a child is sleeping, any liquid that remains in the mouth can support the bacteria that produce acid and harms the teeth. A simple pacifier or bottle of water is fine.