Snack time can sweeten tooth decay


What did your child eat for a snack today? February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and with that in mind, it’s important to know that while many snack choices seem healthy, they actually have a high sugar content that cavities love. Examples of these snacks include fruit juices, milk, dried fruit and whole grain cereals. These sugars feed bacteria, and these bacteria produce acids that erode teeth and cause tooth decay.

Why is all of this important? We only have one set of permanent teeth. Baby teeth (primary teeth) have erupting permanent teeth underneath them. Infections that effect the primary teeth can also affect the permanent teeth.

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month.

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month.

In addition, primary teeth play a vital role in saving space for the permanent teeth. Should the primary teeth be lost prematurely due to decay, the remaining teeth can drift and cause spatial issues for erupting teeth.


Remember, excellent dental health will keep your children in school and focused, and out of the dental chair. At snack time, healthy snacks don’t need to be avoided; measures can be taken to protect your child’s teeth after eating. Below are some helpful suggestions to help prevent cavities and keep your children smiling.

Schedule your child’s first dental visit by their first birthday. This will help relieve dental anxiety as he or she ages and will encourage excellent dental health.

Help your child develop good brushing and flossing habits. Tooth brushing should start after the first tooth erupts; this is usually around six months. Follow up with your kids and check their brushing at night by looking for plaque around the gum line when your child smiles.

Monitor beverage consumption. Water is always the best option. If milk or juice is chosen, try to pair it with a mealtime. The frequency of sugar consumption is important. Sugary foods or beverages consumed 20 minutes apart gives the bacteria two chances to feed and produce more acid.

Avoid baby bottles at night. This causes early childhood caries, or ECC, and is detrimental to a child’s dental health. The last thing in your child’s mouth should be a toothbrush, and then water if needed.

Ensure your child is getting the proper amount of fluoride. For children age five and older, look for toothpaste that has fluoride in it, and then follow up with your dentist at his or her annual visit.

If your child is old enough, provide sugar-free gum. Chewing gum can help increase saliva flow and help remove plaque. In addition, gum with xylitol can help prevent cavities.

For more information about children’s dental health, contact Capt. Melissa McGrier at melissa.a.mcgrier.mail@mail.mil.