I have been struggling with the fact that cavities are on the rise in pre-school aged-children, and it has often left me scratching my head…why? I cannot tell you how often I have to face a guilt-ridden parent to tell them that upon their child’s first set of dental x-rays (usually around 4 years old), that their child has EIGHT hidden cavities in between all of the back molars. We call these “flossing” or “surprise” cavities, and while not the type of surprise any parent wants, it can be a big eye-opener that something in the child’s routine and diet needs to change.
In dental school we are mostly taught to attribute cavities to poor hygiene and too much “sugar” (ie: candy, soda, juice…the obvious bad stuff). For years I personally always attributed these “surprise” cavities to lack of flossing, and while I do strongly feel flossing is incredibly important for your oral and overall systemic health, I still had so many parents say to me…”But, we floss almost every night?! We eat no sugar! Why does my child have cavities?”
Last May, I attended a conference where a very like-minded dentist lectured on how it is not all about hygiene, but rather diet. He inspired me beyond words. His biggest concern…CRACKERS. Yes, crackers. The main snack or food choice for many toddlers, children, and teens (adults, too!!). These dried bread/highly processed/refined flour foods are not only sticky, but break down into sugars extremely quickly in the mouth. Plus, kids tend to graze on them all day long or at least for long bouts of time and we know that the stickiness of the foods we eat (do they stick in the chewing surfaces of your teeth long after you eat them?) paired with the duration of time we eat them (ie: kids who graze, rather than eat organized meals at specific times) is what really makes the cavity-causing bacteria in our mouths thrive. Plus, during this process, acid is created, and these bacteria love an acidic environment.
Parents do look at me like I’m crazy when I say…”I really think you should significantly cut back or even eliminate processed foods from your child’s diet. Specifically: crackers, pretzels, dried cereals, dried fruits, granola bars, fruit snacks, etc.”
“But they are organic? Non-GMO?”
Turns out, cavity-bacteria do not care. They may even prefer organic sugar?! The point is, sugar is sugar, organic or not, and if it sits on the teeth longer, it is more likely to cause cavities.
“So, how can I do this? They are hooked on Cheddar Bunnies?”
I certainly don’t expect some magical over-night miracle to occur at your home…I am a mother first and foremost and get the parenting-survival-game. But if you can just slowly start buying fewer of these items and start bringing less of these foods into the home, you will get there. I promise. If they don’t get them at home, but still at school, OK. It is still an improvement. It may take time and there may be a few fits of rage from your kiddos, but I know you can do it. Stay strong! Remember, you are setting them up for a lifetime of success!
Parents often ask, “So what on earth do I feed my child for snacks if not crackers?” I am here to help. For those with children around 1-2 years old, use this information to help shape your child’s palate (don’t even offer crackers or dried grains or fruits! They will never know they exist! (until birthday parties or at school, but that’s another topic.). For parents of older kids, just try to gradually offer more real food. Things I offer my kids are: cheese sticks, TONS of vegetables, hummus or guacamole, seeds and nuts, nut or seed butters or avacado on whole-grain bread, real fruit (but be sure to limit fruit daily, too (not all day long) and be mindful of fruits lower on glycemic index, like berries and green fruits (apples, grapes, less-ripe bananas), tofu chunks, meat chunks, seaweed snacks (lower sodium ones better), pickles, olives, or other fermented foods, eggs, steel-cut oatmeal, plain yogurt (you can add real fruit to it), cottage cheese, and WATER or plain milk. One thing that really sets us apart at Happi Health is we spend a lot of time discussing diet with you and your child and less time nagging everyone about hygiene. Don’t get me wrong…hygiene IS important, especially flossing, but I truly believe our diet is the main cause of almost all human disease. If we have a clean, whole-food, low-acid diet we will live a happier, healthier life.
If you come and see us, my team and I will spend much more time discussing all of these dietary suggestions with you, as well as help you to find ways to motivate your child with their oral hygiene routine. Remember…at Happi Health we believe the mouth is not a separate body part from the rest of the system and strive to educate with a Whole-Body Approach. We teach kids to ”Eat A Rainbow” for optimal oral and systemic health and will work with you to find suggestions, tips and tricks that fit into your specific family needs. We’d love to chat more! Book an appointment with us today to help prevent future decay! #Nomorecavities #eatarainbow #wholebodyapproach
Love and Health,
Doctor Staci and the Happi Health Team xo
The information provided on this site is not intended as medical or dental advice and should not be interpreted as such. The intent is to provide as much scientific information as possible on different dental materials and aspects of dentistry where controversy exists and scientific clarification would be of benefit to patients, staff, dentists, physicians and scientists in making informed judgments. If you seek medical or dental advice, please consult with a health care professional. You must always exercise your own best judgement when using the services of any health care practitioner.