Oral Health: Dietary Habits

Posted on: April 2, 2010

Bright Smiles From Birth

Bright Smiles from Birth is an ICAAP educational program that provides guidelines and support to Pediatricians and Family Physicians, Dentists, and families to make oral health a component of well-child visits.

Dietary counseling is an essential part of general health counseling and should be compulsory part of well-child visits.  The American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that promoting healthy eating behaviors in young children has important implications in prevention of childhood obesity, cardiovascular problems, endocrine problems, mental health problems, and caries development.

This discussion engages the implications of dietary habits in caries development, covering areas of cariogenic foods and dietary counseling recommendations.

Cariogenic Foods

Juice and sugar-sweetened beverages are consumables frequently associated with both childhood obesity and caries development.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, caries risk is greatest if sugars are consumed at high frequency and are in a form that remains in the mouth for longer periods.  Types of sugar that are most important to monitor are:

  • Sucrose: The most cariogenic sugar, sucrose can form bacteria adhesion to teeth by forming glucan.  According to AAP, bacteria adhesion to teeth limits limits diffusion and buffering of acids.
  • Certain Starch: High-starch foods that are mixtures of finely ground, heat-treated starch and sucrose  such as cereals, potato chips, and corn chips are also cariogenic.

Additionally, while human milk does not promote tooth decay, breastfed infants are at risk for caries when receiving sugary liquids or foods with sugars and fermentable carbohydrates.

Dietary Counseling Recommendations

According to the AAP, caregivers should be counseled on the importance of reducing exposure to sugars in food and drinks.  Caregivers can reduce the risk of caries and to ensure healthy developmental outcomes, the following steps can be advised:

“Breastfeed infants during the first year of life and beyond and mutually desired”

“After nursing, remove the breast from a sleeping infant’s mouth and cleanse the gums and teeth after feedings and before bedtime”

“Discourage a child’s sleeping with a bottle; any bottle taken to bed should only contain water”

“Limit sugary foods and drinks to mealtimes”

“Avoid carbonated beverages and juice drinks.”  When providing a child with juice, choose 100% natural juice before juice that contains high-fructose corn syrup.

“Encourage children to drink only water and milk between meals”

“Encourage children to eat fruits”

“Limit the intake of 100% fruit juice to no more than 4 oz. per day”

“Foster eating patterns that are consistent with MyPyramid guidelines from the U.S.D.A.
Resource link: U.S.D.A. MyPyramid

This resource is informed by:

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2008). Preventative Oral Health Intervention for Pediatricians.  In: PEDIATRICS, Vol. 122, Num. 6, Dec 2008, pp: 1389.

For more information about dietary counseling or Bright Smiles From Birth, please contact:

Jennie Pinkwater
Project Director
1400 W. Hubbard
Chicago, IL 60642
Phone: 312/733-1026, ext 213
Fax: 312/733-1791
jpinkwater@illinoisaap.com