bad snacks for children's teeth

We all know that sweets like cookies and candies are bad for kids’ teeth, but what about savory snacks, like chips? Or healthier snacks, like raisins? Parents are often surprised to learn that these types of snacks can lead to tooth decay, too.

Read on for a list of snacks that many parents don’t realize are bad for their children’s teeth – but first, a quick review of what types of foods can lead to tooth decay, to help you better understand why these snacks are bad for kids’ teeth.

What Foods Cause Tooth Decay in Children?

We have discussed previously how foods can lead to tooth decay in children. To briefly summarize, when cavity-causing bacteria feed on sugars inside your child’s mouth, they produce an acidic waste product that can harm your child’s teeth and lead to cavities.

Consumption of sugary foods like candies gives cavity-causing bacteria the food they need to grow and multiply, but sweets are not the only problematic foods. Certain starchy foods, such as potato chips, pretzels, white bread and white pasta, get broken down into sugars while inside your child’s mouth. When these starchy foods get broken down, they feed cavity-causing bacteria just as sugary foods do and can lead to tooth decay in children.

Bad Snacks for Children’s Teeth


From a general health perspective, raisins and other dried fruits are widely considered healthy snacks due to their fiber, vitamin and mineral content. However, they are also high in sugar and, importantly, are quite sticky. When sugary foods stick to your child’s teeth, they give cavity-causing bacteria additional time to consume sugars and produce harmful acids, increasing your child’s odds of getting tooth decay.

Fruit Snacks

Many parents believe that, since fruit is healthy, fruit snacks must be healthy, too. After all, the word “fruit” is in their name, right?

Please don’t let the name fool you – fruit snacks are typically loaded with sugars. Examine the nutrition label on a package of fruit snacks and you’re likely to find that two of the first three listed ingredients are sugar and corn syrup.

On top of their high sugar content, fruit snacks are very sticky. As with raisins, the combination of being sugary and sticky can lead to cavities or tooth decay in your child’s teeth.


Potato chips may not be sweet, but they break down into sugars in your child’s mouth, providing food for cavity-causing bacteria. Making matters worse, chewed-up bits of potato chips tend to get stuck in the pits and fissures of children’s molars. This gives cavity-causing bacteria extra time to wreak havoc on your child’s teeth.


Like potato chips, pretzels get broken down into sugars in your child’s mouth and often stick to the pits and fissures in your child’s molars, which increases your child’s chances of getting cavities.


Popcorn may be a relatively healthy snack from a nutritionist’s point of view, but from a dentist’s perspective, it is less than ideal. Unlike the other snacks on this list, the problem with popcorn isn’t so much that it leads to tooth decay, but rather that it can lead to tooth and gum injuries.

First, popcorn hulls are notorious for getting trapped between children’s teeth and under children’s gums. When a foreign object gets trapped under the gums, it can lead to pain, inflammation and even periodontal abscess (a pocket of pus that forms in the gums as a result of a bacterial infection).

Second, accidentally chewing on a popcorn kernel that failed to pop can crack your child’s teeth. When possible, try to remove any kernels that have failed to pop before giving your child popcorn as a snack.

Both periodontal abscesses and broken teeth require professional treatment from your child’s dentist.

Tips for Protecting Your Child’s Teeth From Tooth Decay

In addition to minimizing your child’s consumption of the above snacks, there are numerous actions you can take to reduce the risk of your child getting tooth decay:

  • Make sure your child is brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day. Daily brushing and flossing help remove food debris and cavity-causing bacteria from the surfaces of your child’s teeth and are a critical part of your child’s oral healthcare routine. (Click for tips on how to floss your child’s teeth and brushing baby and toddler teeth.)
  • Visit your child’s pediatric dentist for regular dental cleanings and check-ups. A pediatric dentist can remove built-up bacteria that is hard to remove with a toothbrush and can identify and treat any dental issues before they worsen.
  • If your child has deep pits and fissures (the grooves on the chewing surfaces of the teeth), consider pediatric dental sealants. Dental sealants can help keep food particles and bacteria out of the pits and fissures of your child’s molars.
  • Talk to your kid’s dentist about whether professional fluoride treatments are a good option for your child. Fluoride has been shown to help strengthen children’s teeth and reduce the risk of tooth decay.

Children’s Dentist in Hurst, TX

Dr. Lin is a board-certified pediatric dentist and the owner of Hurst Pediatric Dentistry. He provides pediatric dental exams, cleanings, sealants, fluoride treatments and other preventative and restorative dental treatments to children from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including Hurst, Euless, Bedford, Colleyville, Keller, Southlake, Grapevine, Watauga, and Arlington. Call Hurst Pediatric Dentistry today at (817) 510-6400 to book an appointment for your child, or request an appointment online.

This article is intended to provide general information about oral health topics. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition or as a substitute for the advice of a healthcare professional who is fully aware of and familiar with the specifics of your case. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with regard to any questions you may have relating to a medical condition or treatment.


Dr. Jin Lin

Doctor Jin Lin, Board Certified Pediatric Dentist

Dr. Jin Lin is a board-certified pediatric dentist with a passion for helping children achieve healthier, more beautiful smiles. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University and his Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) degree from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. After graduating cum laude from dental school, he completed his post-doctoral pediatric dentistry training at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, where he served as chief resident and worked with children with a wide variety of special medical and dental needs, including children with rare syndromes.