NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Skipping Breakfast Linked to Tooth Problems

February 17, 2004

Previous research has shown that children who are poor are more likely to have untreated cavities than other children. However, a study in the latest Journal of the American Dietetic Association reports that youngsters who were not poor but skipped breakfast and their daily ration of fruits and vegetables were more likely to have cavities than poor children.

Researchers who reviewed nationwide health information collected from more than 4,000 children between 1988 and 1994 found that:

  • Children between the ages of 2 and 5 who didn't eat breakfast every day were almost 4 times more likely to develop tooth decay in their baby teeth than kids who never skipped the morning meal
  • Only 23 percent of kids who ate breakfast every day had a history of cavities, relative to 34 percent of kids who skipped the morning meal.
  • Toddlers were more than 3 times more likely to show signs of cavities if they opted out of their daily five servings of fruit and vegetables.
  • A history of cavities was seen in only 18 percent of kids who downed at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, but in 26 percent of kids who ate fewer servings.

Experts note that nutritional programs, such as the free-and-reduced lunch and breakfast programs have helped meet the needs of many poor children.

Source: Alison McCook, "Eat Your Way to Good Teeth, Kids!" Reuters, January 30, 2004; based upon B.A. Dye, et al. "The Relationship Between Healthful Eating Practices and Dental Caries in Children Aged 2-5 Years in the United States, 1988-1994," Journal of the American Dental Association, January 2004.


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