11 Common Foods That Cause Cavities in Kids

dentist checking kid's teeth for cavities

You have been working hard to teach your kid the importance of oral hygiene, brushing their teeth twice daily, and flossing before bedtime. However, your child continues to get cavities even after cutting down on candy and surgery snacks. 

So, what is causing cavities in your child? Read on to learn more about cavities and the foods that cause them from our pediatric and general dentists in Las Vegas. 

What Is The Leading Cause Of Cavities In Children?

Most parents believe one of the top causes of cavities in children is sugar, commonly found in candy, sodas, sports drinks, and fruit juices. You will even find sugar in chocolate milk. However, sugar is not the direct culprit of cavities. Instead, sugar is simply the “food” that feeds the bacteria that leads to cavities. 

The actual leading cause of cavities in children is harmful bacteria inside the mouth. These harmful bacteria are attracted to plaque, which is created through chemical reactions when we eat and drink various foods, especially those containing sugar. 

The bacteria use the sugar to multiply and spread. As they reproduce, they release acid onto the tooth’s surface. The acid gradually erodes and dissolves the enamel off the tooth, causing weak spots in the tooth. Eventually, this process works deeper into the tooth and leads to cavities. 

What Are Signs Of Cavities In Children?

Some of the common signs of cavities in children parents need to be aware of include:

  • White spots on the teeth. When a cavity first forms, it will cause a slight white discoloration on the tooth’s surface that looks like little white spots. 
  • Pitting or holes in the tooth. Pitting or holes in the tooth occur where the acid has destroyed the outer enamel layer. 
  • Staining on the teeth. As a cavity progresses, it will cause what looks like stains on the teeth. The color of the stains can start out yellowish and gradually turn brown and black
  • Your child complains their teeth are sensitive to hot or cold. If your kid says their teeth hurt when eating or drinking something hot or cold, they could have a cavity. Temperature sensitivity occurs as the enamel layer thins and the nerves inside the teeth react to the extreme temperature change
  • Your child says their teeth hurt when given surgery treats and drinks. Sugar sensitivity develops when the tooth’s nerves are overstimulated and are no longer protected by enamel. While the pain only lasts a short time, it can indicate cavities. 
  • Your child has a toothache. When your kid complains a tooth is hurting and it persists for days, the cavity is causing an infection in the tooth’s root. There can also be swelling of the gum in the infected area. 

Does your child have a toothache? Schedule an appointment with our pediatric dentists to get the relief your child needs. 

How Do Certain Foods Promote Tooth Decay?

Certain foods can promote tooth decay and cause cavities in kids in several ways. For example, those foods high in sugar provide the food the bacteria need to multiply and release the enamel-destroying acid. 

Other foods can get stuck between teeth, gradually breaking down into smaller particles. As they break down, they can release sugar and acid, both of which can damage the tooth’s enamel. 

Then there are foods that stick to the teeth, like taffy, caramels, and peanut butter. If the food is not removed, it will release sugar to feed cavity-causing bacteria and acid as it is broken down. 

What Foods Cause Cavities In Kids?

candies in grocery store candy aisle

Some foods are easy for parents to recognize because they contain a lot of sugar. Other foods may seem like healthy options but can also cause cavities in kids. 

  1. Carbonated Beverages – Sodas are full of sugars that feed the bacteria that cause cavities.
  2. Chocolate Milk – Chocolate milk can have as much sugar as a can of soda.  
  3. Fruit Juices – Not all fruit juices are made from natural fruit juice and can contain extra sugar to provide the sweetness kids love. 
  4. Sports Drinks – Sports drinks might seem like a healthy alternative to sugary drinks, but many of them also have just as much sugar as a bottle of soda. 
  5. Bread, Crackers, Potato Chips, PretzelsThese foods are considered starches because they release natural sugar when they are chewed in the mouth. So, too much of them can promote tooth decay in kids
  6. Citrus Fruits – Citrus fruits may seem like another healthy option for your kid since they have essential vitamins they need. Yet citrus fruits are acidic foods, so they can cause enamel erosion, making it easier for cavities to form. 
  7. Dried Fruits – Dried fruits might seem like a good snack option for your kids. However, they can be sticky and get stuck on and in between teeth. 
  8. Fruit Roll-UpsWhile they might seem like healthy fruity snacks for your child, they are sticky and contain too much sugar
  9. Cookies, Donuts, and Candy – Any treat that contains a lot of sugar can increase the number of cavities your kid gets. 
  10. Jellies and Jams – These foods contain natural sugars and can include additional added sugars that help promote tooth decay. 
  11. Peanut Butter – While peanut butter is a healthy snack option, it can get stuck to the teeth. 

Remember that moderation is the best course of action when your child wants these foods. It would help if you also encouraged your child to brush their teeth afterward to help remove excess sugars and stuck-on foods from their teeth. 

What Types Of Food Are Good For Kids’ Teeth?

There are plenty of foods that strengthen the teeth and protect them from cavities, including: 

  • Milk
  • Cheese 
  • Plain Yogurt
  • Eggs 
  • Fish
  • Chicken
  • Apples
  • Melons
  • Berries
  • Pears
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Leafy Greens
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

How Can I Reduce The Number Of Cavities My Child Is Getting?

  • The best place to start is by monitoring what they eat. If they are eating too many starches, sticky foods, or foods with excess sugar, then make changes to their diet. 
  • Ensure they are brushing and flossing their teeth correctly. Most young kids need assistance until they are eight or nine. Poor oral hygiene can lead to tooth decay, receding gums, or other issues.
  • When giving a sugary treat, try to incorporate it as part of the meal rather than a snack. There will be excess saliva in the mouth that can help wash away the sugar. 
  • Only allow water at least three hours before bedtime. It is essential to stop eating and drinking anything except water to prevent excess plaque development on the teeth. Plus, the water helps rinse away food particles and sugar on the teeth. 
  • When brushing teeth in the morning, have your child brush their teeth after breakfast. By brushing the teeth after the morning meal, your child will have less plaque and sugar on their teeth. 
  • Keep up with bi-annual visits to your child’s pediatric dentist in Las Vegas. Regular visits to your dental clinic can help reduce teeth cavities and other dental problems, like toothaches. 

For further assistance in preventing and reducing the number of cavities in your child and pediatric dental services in Las Vegas, schedule an appointment for your child at Absolute Dental today. 


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children’s Oral Health

National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus.Tooth Decay

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