Best and worst snacks and drinks for kids' teeth

Nurture good oral health by selecting calcium-building snacks and avoiding these three cavity culprits. 

Learning Stages

By Dr. MyLinh Ngo

Pediatric Dentist

Dr. Ngo completed specialty training in pediatric dentistry from the University of California at San Francisco. She practices at Alameda Pediatric Dentistry in the San Francisco Bay Area, whose mission is to make kids smile by promoting oral health for children beginning at age one.

The best foods for kids’ teeth are also beneficial to their overall health. Sugar and starch-laden items that contribute to tooth decay are best to avoid, while healthy snacks like fresh fruit and calcium-rich choices provide essential vitamins and help build strong teeth. Here are some of the best and worst snacks to choose from:

Good-for-teeth snacks

Dairy items. The calcium in dairy can help maintain strong teeth, protect against tooth decay, and keep gums and jawbones healthy. Dairy is also low in acidity and sugar. So keep the string cheese and low-fat yogurt coming! In addition to dairy products, leafy greens, soy beans, nuts and seeds are also rich in calcium.

Crunchy fruits and veggies. Dried fruits tend to stick to the teeth, while crunchy ones don’t. In addition, the high water content in fresh fruit helps dilute the effect of the sugars they contain. Crunchy veggies like carrots and celery are packed with vitamin A, which helps maintain tooth enamel.

Beneficial beverages. For a sweet treat, choose chocolate milk made with high-quality cocoa. Unsweetened iced green tea contains beneficial polyphenols and fluoride, while water hydrates and cleanses at the same time.

Snacks to avoid

High-starch carbs. As a general rule of thumb, the less refined the starch, the higher the acidity level. White bread and potatoes are high in starch, while whole-wheat pita bread is lower.

Sugary junk food. Sugary foods like candy, sweetened cereals and pastries contribute to tooth decay while displacing nutrient-rich alternatives. When it comes to candy, pay special attention to avoid the sticky and sour varieties, which stick to the grooves of the teeth and raise acidity levels in the mouth.

Juice and Soda. Soda and juice are high in sugar content and low in nutritional value. They also tend to contain added ingredients like artificial colors and high fructose corn syrup. These sweet beverages are big contributors to children’s obesity and tooth decay.