As parents, we’re taught that we can prevent cavities for our children with regular brushing and flossing, and limiting candy and sodas. But even parents who diligently follow this regimen often come away from their children’s dental appointments realizing those efforts fell short. The emphasis on oral hygiene clearly isn’t enough, according to Dr. Roger Lucas, a board-certified pediatric dentist and author of the new book, More Chocolate, No Cavities.
Tooth decay in children in the U.S. has grown into a public health crisis, notes Dr. Lucas, and the reason has less to do with genetics, candy habits, or poor brushing. Cavities are one hundred-percent preventable with diet, he argues, blaming children’s everyday snack habits of devouring pretzels, crackers, and other simple carbohydrates. And it’s not about chocolate. In fact, snacking on a few squares of dark chocolate — which contains fat (along with polyphenols and catechins that provide other health benefits) — won’t cause cavities.
Dr. Lucas’s revolutionary approach to cavity prevention is based on the biochemistry of cavity formation. Simple carbohydrates — dry cereal, crackers, dried fruit — convert to lactic acid, which wears away tooth enamel. Limiting processed flours and other simple carbs is the secret to achieving zero cavities.
A parent of young children himself, Dr. Lucas understands that a low-carb diet can be impractical: preschools are notorious for doling out goldfish crackers and apple juice during snack time. He emphasizes that it’s not the amount consumed, but the frequency with which the simple carbs make contact with the teeth that matters. You can brush and floss your child’s teeth twice a day, but if you let him drink chocolate milk from a sippy cup all day long, he will still get cavities.
Once parents understand that it’s just not what their children eat, but how they eat, they can establish good cavity-prevention habits by making a few simple changes. Try implementing organized eating — or six mini-meals each day — instead of constant grazing on snacks, and try offering your child water rather than juice or milk outside of meal times. Both tactics limit the time that teeth stay coated in cavity-producing acid.
Dr. Lucas acknowledges full well that his approach — claiming that diet can prevent cavities — is controversial in dentistry. But he has seen evidence in the thousand-plus families in his practice, the children in his dentist’s chair, and in his own family. His case is convincing, and may be on the leading edge of a paradigm shift. Ending the cavity epidemic among kids in this country would make everyone happy, especially the kids.
Learn more at www.TheDentistDad.com.