Snacks for a healthier smile

September 29, 2015

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Whether you're throwing a birthday party for the little ones or gearing up for the NFL season to begin, you'll need to equip your kitchen with the right snacks. Though eating between meals can be harmful for dental health, you can't leave guests hungry. However, you don't want to send them home with cavities either. As such, when selecting what festive eats you'll lay out on the coffee table, it's crucial to think about the health factor, and that consideration should include dental care. Prepare for your gathering with these mouth-healthy foods in mind:

Choose cheese cubes over chips
Grabbing a handful of salty potato chips is a habit of many party-goers, but it doesn't have to happen in your house. This starch-heavy snack can easily get stuck between your teeth.1 The longer food particles stay in direct contact with the tooth, the more time they have to react with the plaque and cause damage to your enamel. When potato chips get wedged between your teeth, you're more susceptible to tooth decay. Of course, this can be helped with a little bit of flossing, but your guests probably won't leave mid-party to take care of their mouths. Instead, give them cheese cubes.

Block of cheese on cutting board sliced with knife.
Slice up some cheese to provide guests with a healthy snack.

Dairy products are chock full of calcium, which is a crucial element for preventing tooth decay.2 After all, your teeth are made of calcium, and adding more of this nutrient can strengthen enamel. Cheese cubes fit the bill for this task, and they're perhaps the easiest option in this food group to snack on at a party. Plus, cheese is low in acidity and can neutralize the pH level in the mouth. That means when carbs and sugar react with plaque and attack the enamel, the cheese can help reduce the damage.

A bowl of peanuts is better than a bowl of candy
As the name suggests, candy dishes are often filled with candy. However, you don't have to limit their contents to only sugary options. Anything from suckers to cough drops can do a lot of damage to your oral health because sucking on them means they stay in the mouth for long periods of time. However, peanuts provide a convenient alternative as candy-dish fillers.

Peanuts are high in fiber, a component that can boost the production of saliva.2 Saliva is vital for oral health because it balances out the bacteria in the mouth and helps rinse away food particles. Of course, there are other sources for fiber, such as raisins, dates and figs, but peanuts are a more popular snack choice. A note of caution: Be aware of peanut allergies among your party guests before putting out a bowl of this salty snack.

"Carrots and celery act as natural teeth cleaners."

Replace citrus fruits with vegetable trays
Both fruits and vegetables are beneficial for your overall well-being, but when it comes to dental health, making the choice between the two requires a bit more scrutiny. First, fruits have more sugar than vegetables. Though this is a healthier alternative to processed sugars, it can still lead to cavities. Plus, certain fruits such as oranges and grapefruit have high acidity levels, which can erode your enamel.

Vegetables, on the other hand, provide the same nutritious benefits of fruit without the sugar. This is especially true for crisp options like carrots and celery, which can act as natural teeth cleaners and help remove plaque.3

Drink water rather than pop
Next time you host a party, fill your coolers with bottles of water rather than cans of soda. Sugary drinks are bad for every part of your body, and the mouth is no exception. Picking up your favorite cola to quench your thirst can actually worsen dehydration, especially if the pop contains caffeine. Dehydration leads to reduced saliva production, which is counterintuitive when promoting a healthy smile.

Instead, opt for bottles of water. Not only are these a convenient option when preparing for parties (you simply open a case and toss the bottles in the cooler), but water is also crucial for oral health. It adds moisture to the mouth and rinses away leftover food particles.

Though your guests likely have individual dental plans, your healthy snack choices can be a helpful way to boost their oral care routines.

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1. "Top 9 foods that damage your teeth," American Dental Association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/nutrition/food-tips/9-Foods-That-Damage-Your-Teeth

2. "Foods that help prevent tooth decay," Oral-B. http://www.oralb.com/topics/foods-that-help-prevent-tooth-decay.aspx

3. "What to eat to keep your teeth," Delta Dental. https://www.deltadentalins.com/oral_health/nutrition.html

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