Can Fruit Snacks Cause Need for Emergency Dental Treatment?

pic of gummy bears for emergency dentist blog

I’m wondering if fruit snacks can cause decay and result in the need for emergency dental treatment. I hate to sound like the wicked stepmother here, but my husband’s daughter recently complained of a toothache while with us. She’s seven and hasn’t had any dental issues. Her mom usually takes her in for her regular checkups, but because she was in pain, we took her into our office this time. She did have a nasty cavity. The doctor ended up having to do a baby root canal and put a silver cap on the tooth. A couple of days after she went back to her mom’s, her mom called my husband and grilled him. She has apparently told him she isn’t allowed to have fruit snacks and I’ve been allowing all our children to have them. Ergo, I’m now apparently at fault for allegedly causing the dental emergency and she’s ticked. I mean, these are things kids have all the time and I do buy the ones with real fruit juice, so they’re not the candy ones. If they were a real danger, all my kids would have issues because they’ve been eating them for years. Before I go into battle, is there any possibility I’m at fault here?



Dear Wyn,

In short, no, you didn’t cause the dental emergency. Things like this don’t happen overnight. The decay had to have been brewing for quite some time in order to result in that level of decay. It’s possible your step-daughter was only mildly aware of the discomfort- a lot of kids don’t understand what’s happening and liken it to the discomfort of a tooth that’s about to be lost, but she likely has had some symptoms for weeks, if not longer. In that respect, you can set your mind at ease.

However, fruit snacks aren’t a good choice. For starters, they’re mostly sugar- even the ones with natural juice have loads of sugar. That sugar is food for decay-causing bacteria, so while the kidsare snacking, the bacteria snacks too. On top of this, they’re sticky, so the sugar can stay adhered to the teeth for a lengthy period of time if the kids don’t brush right after. There’s one other culprit in them as well- acid. The citric acid included in most of those snacks can actually reduce enamel, making it easier for decay to set in.

That’s not to say fruit snacks are the cause of your step daughter’s problems. They, alone, are probably not the only cause. Usually, these are “lifestyle” issues, perhaps with some genetic influence. The kids could literally be on the exact same diet and have the exact same habits, and one might get decay while the other won’t. If she’s more decay-prone (perhaps her dad or mom are too), then there’s a chance she’ll have to be more diligent. Plus, if she’s indulging in other sugary treats and/ or isn’t a great brusher, that could create the perfect storm too.

In the meantime, sticky foods are probably out regardless. They can sometimes cause issues with the crowns and pop them off. Your best bet is fruit in its natural state, followed by brushing or a swish of water after eating. Studies have been done on dried fruits to see if those increase decay, and so far it doesn’t look like they do, but if you’re looking for something you can keep in your bag for on-the-go snacking, unsweetened purees, like applesauce, can work as well. Be wary of things with extra sugar and even bready things, like crackers, which can also cling to teeth long after the snack is done, and give her a water bottle to keep with her to encourage more water intake.

This blog is sponsored by Elgin emergency dentist, Dr. Steve Sirin.

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