Carry-along pouches of squeezable fruit — what could be better for kids who don’t eat enough fruit? Apparently they are causing early trouble with teeth, making some parents rethink the whole convenience factor.

Busy moms are always looking for time-saving solutions that make their lives run more smoothly. Snacks that are not only portable, but healthy are at the top of every mom's list of must-haves. Squeezable portions of everything from applesauce to mangoes and bananas are quickly becoming a favorite of kids and moms alike. Companies who market these handy pouches focus on the fact that children are eating more healthy fruits this way. What they haven't said is that these slippery snacks may be damaging your child's teeth.

It's fruit — what's the problem?

Bacteria in our mouths breaks down sugars in the fruit, making saliva more acidic.

How can something so good for you be causing trouble for your teeth? We checked in with orthodontist Dr. Michael Thurman about these snacks. "Obviously fruit, in any form, has great overall health benefits and provides many of the essential vitamins and minerals that our bodies need, but they also tend to be very high in simple sugar content which can lead to disastrous effects on your child's teeth," Dr. Thurman says. He adds that bacteria in our mouths breaks down sugars in the fruit, making saliva more acidic — which leads to breakdown of dental enamel and causes cavities.

So are the squeezable fruit pouches worse than eating a whole apple? "Knowing nutrition from an oral health standpoint is important in reducing the occurrence of cavities," shares Carrie Ibbetson, RDH. "It's important to know what types of foods combine with what in order to create balance." She shares that while the acidity is a major factor in cavity incidence, the other problem is that parents tend to let kids graze with these snacks, rather than eating them at one time.

Help keep teeth healthy

"The frequency of sugar has been shown to be the most important factor," says Dr. Thurman, "so if you are giving your child squeezable fruit, try to have them eat it all at once rather than over a period of time. This will limit the duration that the saliva is more acidic than normal and decrease the chances of enamel damage and tooth decay," he adds. Ibbetson also suggests rinsing your mouth vigorously after eating something that causes increased acidity — like the fruit pouches. "The bottom line is yes, fruit pouches are contributing to cavities," she says.

Options

Similar problems are seen in babies and toddlers who carry around a bottle of juice or milk all day, or fall asleep with one in their mouth.

Encourage your child to sit down to enjoy the snack, rather than carry the pouch around in his teeth. This creates a pocket of fruit between her cheeks and teeth, putting that acidity right on the tooth itself. Similar problems are seen in babies and toddlers who carry around a bottle of juice or milk all day, or fall asleep with one in their mouth.

To make whole fruits and vegetables more portable, spend a few minutes at the beginning of the week portioning out small bags of baby carrots, sugar snap peas, apple chunks and other favorites. Keep them handy in the refrigerator, so you can have each child grab a bag when you're heading out the door.

Encouraging your children to eat healthy foods is important, but so is dental hygiene. Take good care of your child's body — and teeth — and set him on the road to better health.

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