Diet and Your Child’s Teeth
A balanced diet is important for long term dental health, teeth that grow properly and healthy gums. What your child eats is important for healthy teeth, but it’s just as important to be careful about when and how often they eat.
All foods can cause cavities in the absence of good oral hygiene. Tooth decay is caused by the reaction of sugar in foods with plaque on the teeth. Plaque is a sticky, often colorless film that forms in our mouths every day. The bacteria in the plaque use food to make acids, and these acids attack tooth enamel. This process leads to the formation of cavities. Frequency of eating and the amount of time sugar remains on the teeth increases the risk of tooth decay.
Good Snacks Make You Smile!
It’s important to eat a well balanced diet and avoid excessive snacking between meals, since children don’t usually brush after having a snack. Here are a couple of suggestions for healthy snacks to feed your child when hunger!
- Give your child healthy snack foods like fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Cheese, including aged Cheddar, Monterey Jack and Swiss – alone or with an accompaniment – is an excellent snack choice. Cheese stimulates the production of saliva, which clears carbohydrates (sugars and starches) and harmful acids, remineralizes teeth, and also neutralizes harmful acids.
- Peanuts and cashews are a great crunchy snack choice, and research has shown that they fight plaque and neutralize bacteria in the mouth.
- It’s best to reserve sugars and cooked starches for mealtime when saliva production is increased and when naturally rinsing foods and beverages are being consumed.
- Offer fewer snacks! If your child is eating frequently, the level of acid in their mouth remains high for longer periods of time, increasing the chances of developing cavities.
- Brush after your child snacks! If this isn’t possible, have them rinse with water several times.
- Never put your child to bed with a bottle filled with milk, formula, juice or soda.
In addition to providing dentally preferred snacks, it is also important to alternate snack choices to incorporate variety, moderation and balance into your child’s overall diet.
Healthy Food for School!
Healthy eating habits in childhood and adolescence provide energy and nutrients needed for:
- Growth and development
- Good dental health
Healthy foods are those found in the four main food groups – Grain products, vegetables and fruit, milk products and meats. When you send food to school, whether it’s for lunch or class parties, aim to include food from the main food groups!