Common Foods That Cause Tooth Decay & Cavities for Kids

foods that cause tooth decay kids

You want your child to have the healthiest teeth possible, but this can be a daunting task when it comes to the foods kids tend to love most. So what are some common foods that cause tooth decay and cavities for kids? Read on to learn more.

Common Foods That Cause Tooth Decay & Cavities for Kids

Tooth decay and cavities are conditions that can happen to both baby and adult teeth. It’s important to preserve both a child’s baby teeth and incoming adult teeth as much as possible. This task can be accomplished by establishing great oral hygiene habits early on, like brushing and flossing for two minutes, twice a day, and starting early on twice yearly teeth cleaning exams.

But parents can also support their kids in preventing tooth decay and cavities by teaching them which foods can hinder a healthy mouth and which foods can help.

Here are some common foods that cause tooth decay and cavities for kids.

Sticky foods

Gum, candy, cookies, cake, caramel and any other foods kids love for its sticky texture can be a main cause of tooth decay in kids. Kids tend to have a harder time thoroughly brushing or rinsing out food particulate, especially as their motor skills develop.

If you have trouble getting your child to brush immediately after eating sticky snacks or candy, they’ll be at higher risk for tooth decay and cavities.

Starchy foods

Pasta, pizza, chips and bread are all foods kids love, and they have a high starch content. Starchy foods convert to sugar in the body, which bacteria in the mouth feed on. While some starchy foods are certainly better nutritionally for your child than sticky candies or cakes, kids should still brush or rinse as soon as possible after eating starchy foods.

Sugary drinks

One of the biggest culprits of tooth decay and cavities in kids are sugary drinks. Sports drinks, soda and juice boxes all have a high sugar content and that can cause a bacteria feeding frenzy in the mouth. Even some milks or “healthy” drinks can have added or extra sugar.

Kids should brush or rinse after having a sugary drink, and should try to avoid sipping these drinks over a long period of time. The more time the drink spends in the mouth, the more time bacteria has to attack the surface of the teeth.

Chewy foods

Gummy candies, taffy, candy corn, marshmallows and other chewy foods have a high sugar content. They also tend to leave bits behind, stuck deep in between teeth. Like other sugary foods and candies, kids should rinse or brush as soon as possible after eating chewy foods. Younger kids may need help making sure their mouths are completely free from these foods after they brush.

Citrus and sour/acidic foods

Orange juice, sour foods and foods with lots of vinegar (e.g. pickles or vinegar chips) can all erode kids’ tooth enamel if they’re not rinsed or brushed out of the mouth.

Many of these foods, like orange slices, can have healthy or nutritious benefits for kids and are often a great alternative to refined sugar snacks and treats. But their high acid content means that kids will still need to brush or rinse as soon as possible after eating these foods.

Foods that Help Prevent Tooth Decay and Cavities in Kids

We know kids are going to snack; that’s part of the fun of being a kid! So how can you help them enjoy being a kid and help prevent tooth decay? Here are some better-for-them foods and healthy alternatives to support great oral health.


We all need to drink more water, and kids especially need to make sure they stay hydrated. Not only does water help with kids’ energy, digestion and overall health, it can help prevent tooth decay and cavities. Water helps with saliva production and rinses away food particles and sugars that damage the teeth.

If plain water is a hard sell for your kids, try adding fruits like strawberries or raspberries to it. Cucumber and mint also make a great combo for water and add a hint of flavor.

Celery, Carrots and Apples

These staple kid snacks are actually great for your child’s teeth! Apples, carrots and celery all act as “natural toothbrushes” which help scrub plaque from the surface of the teeth. Plus, when paired with other healthy dips or fruits, your kids won’t feel like they’re missing out on more sugary fare.

Milk and Yogurt

Low-sugar milk and yogurts are healthy snacks that add calcium to your child’s diet and can strengthen and protect their teeth. Be careful of milk and yogurt-based snacks that are marketed directly to kids; many of them have lots of added sugar that can counter-balance the positive effects of the food. Try mixing yogurt with fresh fruit or a drizzle of honey if kids don’t find it sweet enough.

How to Help Your Kids Avoid Cavities

Even after establishing healthy snacking routines with your kids, it’s still likely they’ll eat foods that can cause tooth decay. So here are some additional steps you can take to support your child’s oral health.

Brush and floss twice a day

Kids should begin brushing and flossing twice a day as soon as they are able, and parents should help them brush as soon as their first teeth come in. Establishing this habit early will go a very long way in creating a lifetime of good oral health in your child.

Go to the dentist early and regularly

There’s no need to wait until your child has a full mouth of teeth to begin visiting the dentist. In fact, you can begin taking them for very simple checkups as soon as their first teeth erupt. This will help your child get used to the dentist from an early age and alleviate any dental anxiety.

Rinse with water whenever possible

It may feel near impossible to get your child to brush immediately after every meal and snack. But you can teach them early on to rinse with water after meals and snacks. This is a habit they can even keep up with during the school day or on play dates or overnights.

Never go to bed with drinks

If at all possible, avoid sending your child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup filled with formula or juice. If they must have something to help calm them, fill the bottle or sippy cup with water only.

Remember: The above information is to be used as general guidelines and you should not use this information to diagnose yourself. If you are concerned about your teeth, you should contact our Clintonville, Ohio dentists for a thorough dental exam.

Pediatric Dentistry in Columbus Ohio

We are proud to offer professional pediatric dentistry, teeth cleaning exams and tooth fillings for your children in Central Ohio. We want to help your achieve their best oral health. Contact us today to learn more!