Diet advice for dental patients

What is tooth decay?

Tooth decay is also called dental cavities or dental caries. This is the destruction of the outer surface (enamel) of a tooth and leads to the tooth getting damaged therefore needing fillings or tooth removal.

Decay results from the action of bacteria that live in the plaque. The plaque bacteria sticking to the tooth use the sugar from food particles in the mouth to produce acid that attack the teeth and destroy the enamel.

Diet can affect teeth

Food and drink that contain sugar cause tooth decay. If you control how often you have sugary food and drink then look at how you can lessen the amount it will definitely help with the health of your child’s teeth.

We would recommend looking at your child’s diet and the amount of sugar they eat and how often they have it. Then consider how you can reduce this.

What causes tooth decay?

The main cause of tooth decay is the sugar that is in the food and drinks they have. Every time you eat and drink anything sugary your teeth are under attack from the plaque acids for up to one hour. This is because the sugar mixes with bacteria in the plaque to produce harmful acids.

This is why it is important to keep sugary foods and drinks to mealtimes only. If you are hungry between meals then you should choose foods that are kind to your teeth and do not have added sugar.

Here are some foods that are kind to your teeth:

  • Fresh fruit
  • Raw vegetable pieces
  • Plain popcorn
  • Cheese
  • Breadsticks
  • Plain yogurt
  • Rice cakes
  • Unsweetened cereal
  • Crumpets
  • Plain bagels
  • Cheese scones
  • Nuts (depending on your child’s age)

Can I eat snacks?

It is better to have three or four meals a day and avoid frequent snacking.

If you do need a snack between meals, choose foods that do not contain sugar.

Fruit does contain acids, which can erode your teeth. However, this is only damaging to your teeth if you eat an unusually large amount. Try to limit dried fruit as it is high in sugar and can stick to the teeth. If you do eat fruit as a snack try to eat something alkaline such as cheese afterwards. Savoury snacks are better.

Tips for healthy snacks:

  • Cheese
  • Hummus
  • Raw vegetables
  • Marmite
  • Break sticks
  • Natural plain yogurt
  • Rice cakes
  • Savoury sandwiches

Savoury sandwiches include:

  • Tuna and cucumber
  • Cheese
  • Egg and cress
  • Chicken and sweetcorn
  • Cold meats

What should I drink?

When you are thirsty plain water and milk are the best drinks for your teeth. Fruit juices you should be given only at mealtimes and add water to them.

Babies and infants

  • Breastfeeding is great for babies but suckling all night long (especially for infants over 1 year) could be damaging to teeth.
  • From six months old infants should be introduced to drinking from a cup
  • It is advised that sugar is not added to weaning foods, this may encourage a sweet tooth and also cause tooth decay.


  • Sugar contains calories only, no vitamins or proteins
  • Limit the frequency and amount of sugary foods and drink
  • Water and milk in a cup are the best drinks for teeth.

Further information


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