Dietary Guidelines

Dental decay is a complex bacterial disease that requires a susceptible host, cariogenic bacteria and a substrate for the bacteria to survive, a preventive strategy must include monitoring and possibly modifying the child's diet. Any food that contains sugars or other carbohydrates that can be metabolized by bacteria in plaque is described as cariogenic (producing or promoting dental decay). For instance, refined carbohydrates, such as candy and other sweets, are cariogenic

Cariogenic potential foods

A major factor in determining the cariogenicity of a carbohydrate is how long the food stays in the mouth. Sugary liquids such as soft drinks leave the mouth quickly and are not as cariogenic as sticky foods, such as raisins or caramels, which adhere to the teeth and stay in the mouth longer. Furthermore, the frequency with which cariogenic food is more likely to develop decay than is the child who eats a large amount or cariogenic food, but only once a day.

Some sweets are less damaging to your teeth than others.

The Good
  1. Hard candies: These treats stimulate saliva, which prevents dry mouth. A dry mouth allows plaque to build up on teeth faster, leading to an increased risk of cavities.
  2. Sugar-free gum: Chewing gum can actually prevent cavities, not only because it helps to dislodge food particles from the teeth, but also because it increases saliva. Saliva works to neutralize the acids of the mouth and prevent tooth decay.
  3. Dark chocolate: Chocolates are loaded with sugar, but the antioxidants in dark chocolate can be good for the heart and may even lower blood pressure. Just be sure to eat it in moderation.
The Bad
  1. Sugary snacks: Caramelized corn, cookies and cake all contain a high amount of sugar, which can cause tooth decay.
  2. Chewy/sticky sweets: Soft candies, taffy and even dried fruit can be difficult for children and adults to resist, but they are a serious source of tooth decay, particularly when they get stuck in the crevices between teeth and make it nearly impossible for saliva to wash away.
  3. Sour candies: High acid levels in these treats can break down tooth enamel quickly. The good news: Saliva slowly helps to restore the natural balance of the acid in the mouth. Children should wait 30 minutes to brush their teeth after consuming acidic foods or drinks, otherwise they will be brushing acid onto more tooth surfaces, increasing the erosive action.
Other advice

Since sugar-free gum is one treat that actually helps prevent cavities. Parents can also give it to their children to help neutralize the effects of sugary snacks after eating. Chewing sugar-free gum containing the artificial sweeteners sorbitol and xylitol reduces cavities. The chewing motion stimulates the flow of saliva, which helps cleanse the teeth. Sweets are especially harmful, since damaging acids form in the mouth every time you eat a sugary snack and continue to affect the teeth for at least 20 minutes before they are neutralized. The sweetening agents in sugarless gum are effective in combating the bacteria in plaque and fighting the acid that eats away at enamel.

Foods such as crackers, although not sweet, are cariogenic because they contain refined carbohydrates that stick to the teeth.They remain in the mouth long enough to be broken down into the sugars that can be used by bacteria.

Characteristics of high and low cariogenic potential foods
High Cariogenicity Low Cariogenicity
High fermentable carbohydrate content
(starch, sugars, or a mixture) Sticky consistency
Breaks into small particles in the mouth
Causes pH to fall below 5.5
Highly processed
Relatively high protein
Moderate amounts of fat
Minimal amounts of carbohydrate
High concentration of calcium and phosphorus
pH greater than 6
Stimulates saliva secretion
Examples: Examples:
Pre-sweetened cereals
Dried fruits
Potato chips
Some vegetables

Another important factor in determining cariogenicity is whether or not the food stimulates the flow of saliva.  Salivary flow serves two functions: (1) It speeds clearance of food from the mouth, and (2) it provides a source of dietary fluoride to strengthen the tooth and assist in remineralization.

Saliva is like a miracle fluid that provides physical, chemical, and antibacterial protective measures for the teeth. The physical protection is dependent on the water content in the saliva and the amount or flow of saliva. If enough saliva is present, it provides a cleansing effect.

The chemical protection provided by saliva is especially important because saliva contains calcium. The antibacterial protection provided by saliva depends on substances found within the saliva, such as immunoglobulins, that work against bacteria.


Balanced nutrition

Balanced nutrition is important for healthy gums and teeth. Children  should be made aware about nutritional facts from small age so that they will establish healthy nutrition habits and have good dental health for the rest of their life.

  1. Eat fibre: Fresh fruits and vegetables increase the saliva flow and helps clean the teeth.
  2. Between meals: Eat fruits, vegetables or cheese.Finish your meal with cheese to neutralize the acids after eating sweet foods.
  3. Healthy snacks: Are fruits and vegetables such as pears, melons, celery, and cucumbers.
  4. Drink: Avoid fruit juices & sodas as they erode tooth enamel.Milk and water are the best.
  5. Avoid: Sticky\chewy foods as it allows bacteria in plague to produce more acid.


Suggested snacks for oral health
  • Fresh Fruits
  • Raw Vegetables
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Fruit Juices
  • Popcorn
  • Water


Guidelines on fruit juice

Most citrus juices contain vitamin C, but many are also naturally good sources of potassium, folate and beta carotene, an important antioxidant. Some juices and juice drinks are also fortified with bone- building calcium and vitamin D, giving them an extra nutritional punch that children need.

Children need 5 to 9 servings (4.5 cups) of fruit and vegetables a day. 100% juice can help meet this goal, as long as most servings of fruits and vegetables come from whole foods to ensure adequate fiber intake.

Try adding a little fun by using juices in non-traditional ways. Mix fruit juices with yogurt, ice and fresh fruit for a quick smoothie. Or use vegetable juices in soups or casseroles.

Vitamin C and flavonoids in juice may have beneficial long-term health effects. To help parents manage their kids' juice intake, the following recommendations is given:

  • For children ages 1 to 6, limit fruit juice to 4-6 ounces per day.
  • For children ages 7 to 18, limited fruit juice to 8-12 ounces daily.
  • Encourage children to eat whole fruits.
  • Do not allow children to drink unpasteurized juice.