How many times do you snack during the day? A mid-morning pick-me-up, a mid-afternoon power snack, a pre-bedtime nibble, or all of the above? Snacks are a great way to fill your body with nutritious foods, maintain energy levels throughout the day and feel full between meals. But snacking can be dangerous for both your health and your teeth if you’re eating multiple processed, sugary snacks during the day.
The next time you’re planning your day and your meals, try to be conscious about how many times you reach for a snack and what that snack looks like. Keep reading to learn how snacking can impact your oral health and what better snacks should include.
How Does Sugar Affect Your Teeth?
Sugar plays a direct role in cavity formation. When you eat sugary, starchy or high-carbohydrate foods, the harmful bacteria that live in your mouth feed on the sugar molecules and produce an acid that attacks tooth enamel. Over time, multiple acid attacks wear down protective tooth enamel and leave your teeth vulnerable to decay and cavities.
The frequency of sugar consumption also plays a role in cavity formation. It’s far more harmful to snack on sugary substances throughout the day – like sipping on sodas, fruit juices and smoothies, sucking on lollipops or hard candies, or munching on multiple sugary snacks in one afternoon. It takes a minimum of 20-30 minutes for your mouth to become less acidic after eating a sugary snack. Frequent snacking exposes your teeth to more acid, which increases the risk of enamel erosion and tooth decay.
Reduce your snacking frequency by eating filling meals with plenty of protein, fiber and healthy fats. Over the weekend, prep healthy snacks for the week so you’re less inclined to reach for convenience items like chips, cookies and pastries. And remember that children’s teeth are still developing and are therefore more susceptible to decay and cavities. It’s especially important for them to receive better snacks for healthy teeth.
Keep reading to learn some scrumptious snack ideas!
Healthy Snack Ideas
Foods that are packed with refined sugars, starches and carbohydrates are the worst types of snacks for your teeth. These include cookies, chips, pretzels, cakes, pies, muffins and pastries, french fries and candies. Sticky, chewy snacks like dried fruits or caramels are also dangerous because the sugars and starches stick to your teeth for longer.
What makes a good snack? A good snack is low in sugar and acid, non-sticky and contains tooth-strengthening minerals like calcium and phosphorus. Good snacks also stimulate saliva flow, which naturally cleans the mouth and strengthens tooth enamel.
When you need an afternoon snack to power through the mid-day slump, or when your kids need a pre-dinner snack after school, here are some tooth-friendly options to have on hand:
- Instead of cookies, nibble on fresh fruit like apples, pears and berries. Crunchy, fibrous fruits like apples stimulate salvia flow to clean out your mouth, while pears and berries have high water content and less sugar and acids. Fresh fruits are chock-full of healthy vitamins and nutrients, and the natural sugars can help satisfy a sweet tooth craving.
- Instead of chips, crunch on fresh raw veggies and dip. Chewing on crunchy veggies like carrots, celery and cucumbers helps increase saliva flow, and raw vegetables are low in sugars and acids. Make raw veggies more appealing by pairing them with a healthy, protein-packed dip like hummus.
- Instead of a smoothie, indulge in a yogurt parfait with nuts and berries. Dairy is an excellent snack for 2 reasons: dairy products are high in calcium and phosphorus, which help strengthen your bones and teeth. Additionally, dairy products help neutralize the acidity level in your mouth. Combine plain yogurt or plain Greek yogurt with heart-healthy unsalted nuts or seeds and sweet berries for a creamy, satisfying snack.
- Instead of fruit juice, drink a glass of milk. Skip the sugar-laden fruit juices and pour yourself a glass of calcium-rich milk instead. Almonds are also a great source of calcium, which makes unsweetened almond milk an excellent alternative to dairy.
- Instead of hard candies, chew on sugar-free gum. Sugar-free gum stimulates saliva production and it helps keep your mouth busy when you need something to chew on.
- Instead of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread, munch on cheese with whole-grain crackers. Most commercial breads are starchy and sugary, while peanut butter and jelly are sticky foods that remain trapped in your mouth. Instead, pair whole-grain crackers (without added sugars) with a savory calcium and phosphorus rich cheese.
Of course, sometimes you just need something sweet to enjoy and that’s perfectly OK. When you do eat sugary foods, eat them as one dessert after a meal instead of eating multiple sugary snacks throughout the day. And consider substituting a candy bar or cookie for a few squares of dark chocolate, which contains more healthy antioxidants.
Contact Boyett Family Dentistry to Schedule a Cleaning
Boyett Family Dentistry is open and welcoming all new appointments for cleanings and exams. We recommend you have a professional cleaning every 6 months for good oral health. Schedule your next appointment by calling our office at 863-294-9200.