It may come as a surprise, but sugar does not cause tooth decay. The real cause of tooth decay is from acid-producing bacteria in your mouth. Sugar from candy or starch from foods such as chips and bread cling to teeth and fuel the bacteria. The bacteria cause plaque, which eats away at tooth enamel.

Misconceptions about candy and tooth decay

Many parents substitute chips and crackers for sweets because it is assumed they are better for children’s teeth. In fact, a national survey commissioned by the AAPD discovered that 96% of U.S. adults with children under the age of 12 thought a cracker was better for teeth than a caramel.  However, these foods become soft or sticky when chewed and often stick in the teeth for a longer time. The AAPD went on to say:

“The truth is that starches can lead to cavities just as sugars can, and caramels dissolve more quickly from the mouth than crackers. A cracker may be more figure-friendly, but it is not a teeth-friendly snack.”

A candy like a simple chocolate bar washes away naturally with saliva. This gives the chocolate less opportunity to feed bacteria and cause decay.

Even super-sticky fruits like raisins can be worse for the teeth than candy. Raisins cling to the teeth because they are sticky, and this makes them more likely to aid in tooth decay.

Food choices are key. Encourage your family to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts and reduce consumption of potatoes (especially potato chips), sweets and soda. If you have a fussy eater, try a small amount of peanut butter as a topping to add flavor and protein. Whatever the family chooses for a snack, be sure to brush for at least two minutes, twice every day – and especially after consuming clingy foods that need brushing and flossing for removal.