I had a chance to interview Dr. Roger Lucas, a pediatric dentist and the author of More Chocolate, No Cavities: How Diet Can Keep Your Kid Cavity-Free. He offers a revolutionary approach that promises zero cavities for children, and he has the data to prove it. Now that tooth decay in young children is considered a public health crisis, his diet-based method is both timely and achievable.
In your book, you claim that parents can brush and floss their children’s teeth and limit candy and soda, and their children can still get cavities. What should they be doing instead?
The absolute number one factor to focus on first is the frequency with which carbohydrates touch teeth. Even healthy foods, like milk and fruit, cause cavities if eaten frequently all day long. Many parents don’t realize this until it’s too late.
Describe what you refer to as the “true culprits” of tooth decay.
Many dentists aren’t aware that flour can cause cavities — in particular, dry flour, such as crackers or cereal. Crackers are ten times “stickier” than bread and stay stuck longer between the teeth. Many cavities that have been previously blamed on genetics are in fact simply from eating crackers or cereals throughout the day.
Is it a concern if children have cavities in their baby teeth since it’s adult teeth that are most important?
Typically, children lose their back baby teeth around ages 10-12, so these need to be taken care of throughout this time. Cavities in baby teeth can cause pain, infection, distraction from learning, and space loss for adult teeth. Establishing good dietary habits for your toddler is crucially important in keeping your child healthy and avoiding sedation to fix cavities.
Why is organized eating better than grazing?
After carbohydrates touch the bacteria on teeth, the acid it produces lasts for about 20 minutes until the saliva rinses it away. This means that the time carbohydrates touch teeth is much more important than the quantity of carbohydrates. Ironically, your teeth would be better off if you ate ice cream once a day instead of whole grain crackers three times a day. Many parents have it backwards when it comes to teeth.
Why is it better to feed your children dark chocolate than crackers?
Three reasons: 1) Dark chocolate is mostly fat. Fats (like meat and cheese) don’t cause cavities, so the higher fat content in dark chocolate is actually a benefit for teeth. Crackers, however, are practically 100-percent processed starch, which does cause cavities. 2) Dark chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which may actually help prevent cavities (a toothpaste has been made of it). 3) Teeth need a “rest” between meals and snacks. Crackers are easy to snack on throughout the day, while dark chocolate fills you up.
You talk about changing your child’s diet and eating practices to prevent cavities from forming, but what can you do if your child is at daycare or in school?
Talk with your child’s teacher or caregiver, and share a copy of my letter and snack guide addressed “To the lovely person helping to take care of children” (you can find it at the letters of my web site). It explains how simple changes, like water instead of juice, or bread instead of crackers, can make a huge difference. Hearing it from a trusted source may get you further than telling them yourself.
Are brushing and flossing practices still on the front lines of defense for cavity prevention?
Of course brushing and flossing are important for cavity prevention. However, you can’t “outbrush” a bad tooth diet. For example, if you drank soda all day long, flossing wouldn’t be enough to stop cavities. Similarly, if your preschoolers eat crackers five times day, flossing may not prevent them from getting cavities. What foods you give your child, and how often, can be ten times more important than brushing itself.
Learn more at The Dentist Dad.