The top 5 worst foods for your children’s teeth are, unfortunately, some of the most common foods out there, and foods that you’re likely already feeding to your children.

Don’t be alarmed, however! These foods cause the most damage to young teeth because of poor oral care habits, and not so much because of the food…

Sugary Sodas

The high levels of sugar in sodas like Coca-Cola, Sprite, Dr. Pepper, et al, are bad enough. But the carbonic acid, which makes soda acidic, will soften the enamel on teeth and expedite tooth decay. Unfortunately, sugary sodas are so pervasive in our society it’s nearly impossible to prevent kids from drinking it.

Solution: Create a habit of drinking water after drinking soda. It will help wash away the sugars and carbonic acid. It’s not always advisable to brush teeth after drinking these soda because the carbonic acid will soften young teeth and can sometimes do more damage. Another solution is to supply your child with sugarless chewing gum as the saliva will also wash away the harmful elements.

Juice Boxes

We tend to believe that fruit juices are healthier options than sugary sodas, but they’re not. Just about all fruit juices that ship in children’s size drink boxes have extra sugars added to them, mostly in the form of concentrated fruit. For example, to make apple juice more sweet and palatable, they add concentrated apple juice, as opposed to straight apple juice. Hence, you get more sugar.

On top of that, a typical children’s size 4.23 ounce box of apple juice requires between 2 to 4 apples to make. That’s far too much sugar for an elementary school child to subject their teeth to, let alone put into their bodies. That’s tough because public schools supply kids with these juice boxes at lunch.

Solution: Drinking water after drinking a juice box will help towards washing the sugars away from their teeth, as will chewing sugarless gum. If you can create that habit early with your child, it will greatly in the long run. Also, the higher pH in cheese is a great way to counter the effects of sugars. Supply your child with individually wrapped string cheese and instruct them to eat this only after they drink a juice box.

Citrus Fruit

Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and tangerines, are excellent sources of nutrition for a growing child, and if your child happens to love eating them consider it a bonus. But, these fruits are highly acidic and can do serious damage to young teeth. Oranges tend to be the least acidic of these fruits.

But here in Alaska, it’s not that big of an issue because we don’t get a lot of citrus. Yet, keep in mind of citrus juice, or jarred, canned citrus.

Chewy Sweets

What makes chewy candy even worse than hard candy is that they stick to the teeth. Kids can get chunks of gummy candy stuck in their young molars for up to an hour or more. Having that much sugar impacted against their enamel for that long of a time is a certain recipe for cavities.

Dried fruit is also as bad because manufacturers add extra sugar.

Solution: If you want to reward your child with something yummy, stick with dry candy that dissolves fast. Chocolate tends to melt quickly and doesn’t get impacted in between teeth.

Starch Snacks

Potato chips, corn chips, Cheetos, Doritos, et al. When eating these snacks, a starch film envelops the teeth and becomes sugary. Moreover, these snacks tend to leave dozens of small bits stuck to, or stuck between teeth, and can remain for hours. Making matters worse, these snacks are so common in our society, it’s impossible to keep your kids away from them.

Solution: Train your kids to desire clean teeth without food particles stuck to them. Teach them how to look in a mirror and check. Explain that drinking water (or mouthwash) and swishing it around is a quick way to get unsightly food off of their teeth. It may even help them win more friends. It’s an indirect way of creating good oral hygiene.