Smiles For Tomorrow

Course Author(s): American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry


All solid and liquid foods containing fermentable carbohydrates are potentially cariogenic. Acid-forming bacteria, such as caries-producing Streptococcus mutans, begin the immediate breakdown of sucrose from food, potentially contributing to dental caries.

Sugars on the tooth surfaces are converted to acid within seconds of ingestion. The acid acts to demineralize the tooth. Left undisturbed, the acid produced from the ingestion of a sugar can remain in the oral cavity up to 2 hours. During this acid attack, the pH level of plaque drops from a normal range of 6.2-7.0 down to a pH of 5.2-5.5, the level at which demineralization can occur.

Consumption of caries-producing solid and liquid foods will lower the oral pH to a level that makes the enamel susceptible to caries. These frequent exposures can lower the pH to demineralizing levels for several hours per day.

Diet and Dental Caries:
Diet and Dental Caries

The texture of foods, likewise, influences the length of time demineralization can occur. Foods that are more retentive and slower to dissolve will remain on the tooth surface for a longer time.

After the eruption of the first primary tooth, prevention of ECC is possible by restricting bottle/breast feeding to normal meal times and not allowing the infant to feed ad libitum or while sleeping. In order to eliminate or reduce caries risk in their infant or young child, caretakers should understand the relationship between diet and dietary habits and dental caries. The caregiver should be advised to establish a pattern of three regular meals a day. In between-meal snacks should be limited and be foods of high nutrient density with low cariogenicity.

Additionally, incorporating more fibrous and less-retentive foods, such as uncooked crisp fruits and vegetables, will help stimulate salivary flow and promote the remineralization process.