Dental Health Info Article

Snacks in Sheep's Clothing that Attack Dental Health:

Over time, the line between meals and snacking have become less clear cut to American consumers; research has indicated that eating snacks three times a day has become increasingly common and estimates suggest that 27 percent of children’s daily calories are snack related. The passion for the mid-meal noshing has helped the snack food industry generate $64 billion in 2010 and there are no signs of the trend reversing (Packaged Facts, “Snack Foods in the U.S., 4th Edition"). Since the behavior is now considered part of the daily norm, individuals need to be conscious of the treats selected as while the foods may be marketed as healthy, the reality is the wrong choice can wreak havoc on dental health.

The act of eating little bits of food all day long is part of the evolution of man; hunters and gatherers had to take in their food when they could get it. Humans are wired to benefit from grazing as the act will deliver a boost of energy, help sustain blood sugar levels and allow dieters to avoid feeling starved (and to prevent them from binging eating later).

In its earliest incarnation fruits, vegetables, nuts and other nature bounties were the primary snack choices as those foods have been available for as long as time itself. However, after the Industrial Revolution workers started to rely on the convenience of prepared foods to get the energy needed without all the preparatory fuss. That behavior helped pave the path for the booming snack industry and the plethora of unhealthy options available.

Although many people are well aware of the Government's Nutrition Plate and the recommendation to eat a balanced diet that incorporates wise choices such as whole grains, the right dairy foods and lean proteins, individuals are disregarding the advice. Instead, snack foods such as French fries (and all fried foods), potato chips, sugar-laden soft drinks, refined grains, red meats, processed meats and butter are singled out for contributing to weight gain and subsequent health issues (Nurses’ Health Study, Nurses’ Health Study II, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, June 2011 in the New England Journal of Medicine). Individuals concerned about the negative side effects of snacking should not only hold off chewing those foods, but also avoid snacks packed in "sheep's clothing" as some treats known for being health are actually anything but!

Diet Soda

The term "soda water" was first coined in 1798 and since that time the bubbly beverage has tickled many a pallets. According to the National Soft Drink Association (NSDA), the average American consumes more than 600 12-ounce servings (12 oz.) of soda and soft drinks per person per year. Although soft drinks are indeed refreshing, they are known for contributing to America's obesity epidemic as well as the high levels of tooth decay, cavities and gum disease for the nation's citizens, with sugar being exposed as the biggest contributor to the issue. In order to combat those health issues and dental problems, plenty of people instead opt to choose diet soda, but sadly the low-calorie treat can be one snack that negatively impact dental health.

Sodas branded as "diet" or "no-cal" first made it onto the scene in the 1950s when a Brooklyn bottler launched a sugar free soda specifically catering to diabetics. Overtime, other manufacturers followed suit and now there are countless flavors and brands of diet soda. While many Americans opt to grab the treat as an alternative to other calorie-dense processed snacks, the beverage is a known source for declining dental health.

Diet sodas rely on artificial sweeteners in order to get their flavor. While the additives such as aspartame, Saccharin and Splenda are devoid of calories and sugar (a favorite treat for dental plaque, the culprit behind most dental problems), diet soda is still acidic. It is that PH balance (caused by either Phosphoric or Citric acids) that can cause the erosion of tooth enamel. Plus, diet soda is also known for causing bone loss, when left untreated that can contribute to dental problems including tooth loss.


Pretzels have been a favorite of snackers for hundreds of years. The little snacks can be soft, hard, flavored or salted; there is no arguing how tasty the snack food is and for many years the devices were thought to be a healthy, low fat treat. While it is true the snacks will not back on the pounds, the refined grains used to make the food can wreak havoc on teeth.

This particular snack food is known for being a carbohydrate that when masticated and broken down, will convert to a simple sugar. Oral bacteria will kick into action to consume the sugars and will release an acid by product as a result. It is this process that will contribute to dental problems such as decay and gum disease. The more pretzels eaten, the more sugar will be deposited on teeth and increase the odds of needing dental treatments to help solve the issue.

Yogurt Drinks

Around the world, yogurt is considered to be an important health food. The fermented milk can contain live cultures to aid in digestion, and is filled with other nutrients including  protein, calcium, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. Research conducted in Japan has found that children who ate low-fat yogurt four times a week, reduced their chances of developing tooth decay by as much as 22 percent. Additional research has found that dairy foods can also help combat gum disease. However, Yogurt drinks should not automatically be included in the category because of the risks to dental health.

While a flavored yogurt drink may have some health benefits, odds are the typical options sold in grocery stores have way too much sugar, the favorite feast of tooth rotting, oral bacteria. Sipping a yogurt drink, will deposit sugars on teeth and up the odds of dental problems from occurring in the future.

If despite the warnings, you are still committed to your favorite snack, there are ways to minimize the potential damage of the treat including:   

  • Diet soda sippers should use a straw to aim the beverage away from teeth.
  • Regardless of the snack consumed, drinking fresh water after the fact can help minimize some of the risks as the fluid can wash away some of the sugars left behind.

Individuals looking for more tips in relation to snacking and dental health should know that a dentist is the best source for the information. Those needing to find a dentist can call 1-800-DENTIST during their next snack break to get the name of a great dental care provider, up to the task of helping you manage your oral health.