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Nutrition and Diet for preventing cavities

These are the most important dietary factors affecting the cavity rate:

Frequency of snacking

  • Limit snacking to once between breakfast and lunch and once between lunch and dinner

Duration of each snack

  • Avoid long dragging snack habits
  • Have short (5-15 minutes) snacks
  • Avoid having one bite/sip every 15-30 minutes over two hours

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 snacks.
    • Cariogenic Foods (fermentable carbohydrates)
      • Sweet and sticky foods
      • Soft drinks containing sugar are acidic and cariogenic
      • Coffee or tea with added sugar and/or any kind of creamer or milk
    • Non Cariogenic Foods
      • Nuts such as almonds and walnuts
      • Vegetables such as carrots, celery
      • Jell-O sugar free
      • Fat free yogurt
      • Coffee or tea with no milk, no sugar/honey/creamer (note: sweeteners such as saccharine, cyclamate and aspartame do not cause cavities)
  • Try to avoid sticky foods, such as:
    • Raisins
    • Processed fruit snacks
    • Cookies and crackers
    • Candy that can adhere to teeth for long periods of time
      – Particularly problematic due to particles which lodge between teeth for hours

Neutralization of the negative effect of snaking with Xylitol gum or mint is essential. The recommended dose is two pieces of xylitol containing gum or mints after consuming fermentable carbohydrates.


More details

Cariogenic foods (food that promote cavities) are food that contain carbohydrates fermentable by salivary amylase in decreased salivary pH, creating acids which melt the teeth resulting in cavities.  These carbohydrates can be found in healthy food groups, such as grains, fruits, dairy, as well as products with added sugars. Several factors affect the cariogenicity of foods such as the frequency of fermentable-carb consumption; food form (solid vs. liquid); sequence of eating; combinations of foods and nutrient composition.

Cariostatic foods do not contribute to decay. These include proteins, most vegetables, fats and sugarless gum. Non-carbohydrate sweeteners (saccharin, cyclamate and aspartame) are cariostatic.

Anticariogenic foods (food that prevent cavities) are food that prevent plaque from recognizing an acidogenic food when consumed first. Xylitol cannot be metabolized by bacteria and is thought to have two mechanisms of action that protect the enamel, first an antimicrobial activity against Streptococcus mutans, and second a salivary stimulation from chewing xylitol-containing gum can increases the clearance of fermentable carbs from the tooth surface. The recommended dose is two pieces of xylitol-containing gum after consuming fermentable carbohydrates. There is some evidence that xylitol can also produce a remineralizing effect.

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