Before rushing off to school in the morning, many families sit around the table to fuel up with the most important meal of the day. Unfortunately, one of the more common breakfast options – cereal – might have some unintended consequences for teeth.
Too much sugar at breakfast time isn’t a great way to start the day, and some cereals have more sugar than you might think. A report by the Environmental Working Group noted that 2 out of 3 cereals marketed to children had more than a third of the recommended daily sugar intake in just one serving.1 When these refined sugars come into contact with teeth, dental plaque reacts with them to create acids. Over time and with enough exposure, those acids can cause cavities.2
The good news is that there are lots of ways to avoid this cavity-causing effect. Opting for healthier cereals is a great place to start. Look for low-sugar options, preferably with four grams of sugar or less in one serving.3 You should also choose varieties made from whole grains to maintain nutrients like fiber,4 which stimulates saliva flow to help keep teeth clean.5 To navigate through the multitude of options, read the packaging, paying close attention to the valuable nutrition information that is typically on the back or the sides.6
Regardless of which cereal you choose, there are ways to minimize the effects it can have on your teeth. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, drinking milk after eating sugary breakfast cereals can help decrease your risk of cavities. It can also help to brush after your meal, to avoid drinking fruit juice7 and to only eat cereal at breakfast time instead of snacking throughout the day.
If you choose to limit the amount of sugary cereals you eat, make sure you’re still enjoying a hearty breakfast. Take a look at our list of alternatives that’ll give you the boost you need without hurting your teeth:8
- Fruit – apples, berries, cherries,9 melons and pears10
- Dairy products – yogurt, cottage cheese and cheese slices11
- Protein – chicken, ground turkey and fish
- Eggs – sunny-side up, omelets and crustless quiche12
- Smoothies and smoothie bowls (but avoid using sugary fruit juices)
- Whole-wheat toast and whole-wheat bagels
With slight adjustments to your morning routine, you can start off the day on the right note while curbing your risk for tooth decay.