You might be surprised to know that sugary foods are not the sole cavity-causing culprit many people think it is. All carbohydrates—not just sugar—can contribute. That includes the carbohydrates in pasta, rice, fruit and milk, as well as in sweets such as cakes, cookies and candy.
To help improve your daughter's dental health, it's good to know a bit about how a cavity can start to form.
When bacteria in plaque (a sticky, invisible film that clings to tooth surfaces and edges of gums) mixes with the carbohydrates (sugars and starches) in foods, acid is formed. The acid washes over teeth and can attack tooth enamel for 20 minutes or more, which can lead to cavities.
The more often you eat carbohydrate-containing foods (for example, by snacking frequently), the more often acid washes over your teeth. Although sticky foods such as taffy or raisins are often blamed for causing cavities, foods such as bread or chips that get caught in teeth actually may be more harmful.
Whether or not you get cavities also depends on other factors such as genetics and the flow and composition of saliva. Also important are healthy habits such as getting regular dental check ups, brushing at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, flossing once a day to remove plaque and food particles from between teeth and under the gum line, and eating a balanced diet.
Here are some more tips to help your daughter (and the whole family) sport a healthy smile:
Stick with one between-meal snack, rather than nibbling throughout the day. The more frequently you snack, the more times teeth are exposed to acid.
Choose snacks such as cheese or apple slices spread with peanut butter more often than snacks that tend to get caught in teeth such as chips, cracker, pretzels and granola bars.
Whenever possible, brush your teeth right after eating to help remove plaque and harmful acids. If you can't brush, rinse your mouth with water to help wash away food particles from teeth.