When we think of the foods most harmful to our teeth, we immediately think of candy. Cavity causing bacteria thrives on sugar, and candy is one of the most obvious culprits. Chips and crackers are often substituted for sweets because we think they are better for our teeth, and even people who are vigilant about brushing can be less likely to consider the negative effects of starchy foods. In fact, it’s not only the sweet foods that can cause trouble for teeth, but potato chips, crackers, and other starches are bad news as well. They become soft or sticky when chewed, and stay lodged in teeth long after the meal. Although they don’t necessarily taste sweet, the starches in crackers and chips are broken down into sugar by enzymes in the mouth.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry has stated that starchy foods may even be worse for your teeth than candy because of the length of time they stay on teeth long after snacking has ended. As part of a national survey commissioned by the AAPD, it was discovered that 96% of U.S. adults with children under 12 thought a cracker was better for teeth than a piece of caramel. The AAPD went on to say:
“The truth is that starches can lead to cavities just as sugars can, and caramels dissolve more quickly from the mouth than crackers…A cracker may be more figure-friendly, but it is not a teeth-friendly snack.”
Looking for an alternative? Instead of potato chips or crackers, apple slices or celery can provide that satisfying crunch, and a little bit of protein-dense peanut butter as a topping adds flavor if you or your children aren’t impressed with the substitution.