Caries Management by Risk Assessment: Part III

Dr. Ziad Jalbout

How do my snacking habits affect my risk for cavities?

In the same way that a diet rich in unhealthy fats increases your risk of heart disease, frequently snaking on fermentable carbohydrates increases your risk of caries disease. It is important to understand the relationship between snacking and caries to take action to lower your risk for future caries. At Making You Smile NYC we call that Caries Diet Counselling.

As we mentioned in previous blogs, fermentable carbohydrates are used by bacteria in our mouth to produce acids that melt the tooth, thus making a cavity. Caries Diet Counselling focuses on reducing the amount and duration that fermentable carbohydrates are present in our mouth thus starving the bacteria and subsequently their production of acids.

The most important factors are:

  1. Frequency of snacking: to reduce cavities limit snacking to once between breakfast and lunch and once between lunch and dinner.
  2. Duration of each snack: A snack should be eaten within a short period of time (5-15 minutes). Having one bite or sip every 15-30 minutes over a few hours is much harder on your teeth.
  3. Quality of food: Some foods are more likely to promote cavities than others:
    • Cariogenic foods, food that promote cavities, should be limited or followed by brushing.  It’s best to eat cariogenic foods during meals, rather than as snacks.
    • Sticky foods such as raisins, processed fruit snacks, crackers, and candy that can adhere to teeth for long periods of time are particularly problematic; avoid these as snacks.
    • Particles of crackers, chips, cookies, breads, pastries may become lodged between the teeth for hours, avoid them as snacks as well.
  4. Neutralization of the negative effect of snaking: if you want to snack on a fruit, choose an apple instead of a banana for example. You can easily wash away the apple remnants with a glass of water, while the banana will stick in between the teeth for a longer period of time. Also you can neutralize the negative effect of snacking with Xylitol gum or mint is essential. The recommended dose is two pieces of xylitol-containing gum or mint after consuming fermentable carbohydrates. Choose a 100% Xylitol gum or mint.

Cariogenic Foods

  • Sweet and sticky foods are cariogenic. Examples include: cookies, crackers and fruit roll-ups
  • Soft drinks are acidic and cariogenic
  • Coffee or tea with added sugar, any kind of creamer or milk

Non Cariogenic Foods

  • Nuts such as almonds
  • Vegetables such as carrots, celery
  • Jell-O sugar free
  • Fat free yogurt
  • Coffee or tea with no milk (sweeteners such as saccharine, cyclamate and aspartame do not cause cavities)

At Making You Smile NYC, everyone gets a Caries Diet Counselling to identify daily snacking habit harmful to your teeth. Our goal is a cavity-free future for your teeth.