I don’t keep candy in my house, but during Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day, my kids bring home lots of lollipops, candy and chocolate. I usually dole out one treat a day and even throw out some of it when they’re not looking. Not only is sugar addictive so they continue to ask me for it, but it makes them hyper, spikes their blood sugar, can lead to weight gain and cavities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2011 and 2012, 21 percent of kids between 6 and 11 years had at least one cavity in their permanent teeth.

I’m thankful that my kids haven’t had any cavities and I know it’s because they brush and floss, drink water and eat a healthy diet. The foods your kids eat have a big impact on their risk for cavities but surprisingly it’s not just the sugary sweets that are the problem.

Here, read on for 10 best and worst foods for your kids’ teeth.

Best Foods For Kids Teeth

1. Apples

Apples and other high-fiber fruits and vegetables work like a scrubber for the teeth by removing bacteria. Also, the chewing action helps to stimulate saliva and cleanse the teeth. The antioxidants known as flavonoids in apples may also help to prevent harmful bacteria from causing cavities.

2. Kefir

Not only is kefir an excellent food to feed your kids because it’s high in protein and a good source of calcium and phosphorous. Yet the probiotics that kefir contains, which are know to support gut health, may actually be beneficial for oral health too. In fact, a September 2012 study in the journal Nutrients suggests eating fermented dairy products like kefir may prevent gum disease.

3. Nuts

Not only are nuts are an excellent source of calcium and phosphorous which are beneficial for tooth enamel, but since they’re crunchy, munching on them stimulates saliva production which helps prevent cavities.

4. Strawberries

The vitamin C in strawberries can help fight the bacteria that leads to gum disease and maintain the PH balance in the body, which is beneficial for teeth.

5. Cheese

Cheese is rich in calcium, which builds strong teeth and bones, but research suggests cheese may also prevent cavities. According to a May-June 2013 study in the journal General Dentistry, kids who ate cheddar cheese had higher PH levels in their mouths, which may ward off cavities.. Casein, the milk protein in cheese, may also help to re-mineralize the calcium in tooth enamel.

Worst Foods For Kids’ Teeth

 

1. Dried fruit

Raisins, dried fruit and trail mix with dried fruit are quick and convenient for after-school snacks or road trips, but all types of dried fruit are high in sugar and super sticky—a bad combination for cavities.

2. Crackers

Crackers can make for an easy snack but crackers are starchy and once your kids start to chew, a gooey paste forms in their mouths and sticks to their teeth. The same goes for soft breads, chips and other crunchy snacks.

3. Fruit juice

Fruit juice—even those that are organic or made with 100 percent juice—are still high in sugar and acidic, which is harmful to tooth enamel. If you are going to serve juice, dilute it with water or make your own juices at home with 80 percent vegetables and 20 percent fruit.

4. Sports drinks

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says children should restrict or avoid consuming sports drinks because they can cause cavities. Water should be enough no matter how hard they play on the field.

In fact, a 2009 study out of New York University found regularly drinking sports drinks may lead to “erosive tooth wear,” a condition in which acids break down tooth enamel and eventually soften and weaken the teeth. Not only can it cause cavities, but it may lead to tooth loss, the authors note.

5. Fruit snacks

Kids love fruit leather and chewy fruit snacks, but because these are high in sugar and stick to the teeth, they’re one of the worst foods for your kids’ teeth.