How Do I Make My Child’s Diet Safe for His or Her Teeth?

Good oral health is important for everyone, and for those parents trying to build good hygiene habits, the early the routines are started the better. Having good oral hygiene isn’t just important for keeping the teeth and gums healthy, it also has long-lasting effects on the overall health of your children. As a parent, there is a considerable amount of time spent showing the children how to brush their teeth and how to floss them. It is likely that the importance of regular visits to the pediatric dentist for cleanings has been stressed (and maybe even a consultation with orthodontics), but some parents underestimate to take a look at what goes on their kid’s plate, even though it can be a key factor in oral health. Food can have a tremendous impact on the health of a person’s teeth and gums. There are plenty of teeth-friendly foods that should be making regular appearances in the lunchboxes and on the dinner plates. However, there are also a few key food items that should be eaten only very sparingly. In this article, we will take a look at diet and discuss ways to make it safe for children’s teeth.

Foods to Eat for Healthy Teeth

The foods on this list are good for the teeth, and they promote a healthy mouth. Parents should try to pick heavily from this list when creating meal plans and packing lunchboxes. Eating healthy can’t ward off the need for braces, but it can help eliminate the need for fillings due to cavities.

Apples: The old saying goes, “An apple a day can keep the doctor away!” However, that saying could end with dentist instead of doctor because apples are a great food item for the teeth. The act of chewing apples can actually scrub plaque from the teeth making it less likely that cavities will form. Plus, they are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which make them a great addition to the diet for other health reasons. While eating apples won’t eliminate the need for dentistry, it does help keep the teeth healthier.

Water: Most beverages that accompany meals and snacks contain a ton of sugar, but water can keep the children hydrated without adding unnecessary sugar to the diet. A thermos of water in the lunchbox is much better for oral health than a sugary juice box or even a carton of milk.

Eggs: Calcium is needed to build healthy teeth and strong bones, and eggs are an excellent source of calcium. Plus, they contain vitamin D, which is needed to help the body absorb calcium. Eating scrambled eggs for breakfast is much better for the teeth than munching on a bowl of cereal that is packed with sugar.

Dairy Products: Also packed with calcium are dairy products. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are all good sources of calcium. Plus, dairy products can also help neutralize the acids which plaque bacteria produce. Yogurts can also have a lot of sugar added to them even the ones for babies, so it is important to check the ingredients list when making a selection.

Celery and Carrots: These crunchy vegetables do teeth scrubbing work just like apples. All the chewing required for digesting celery and carrots can help keep the teeth clean. Plus, the fibrous strands in celery can work like a natural floss getting in between the teeth while chewing.

Nuts: Having a high level of acid in the mouth can be detrimental to tooth enamel, which is why eating nuts like almonds, peanuts, and cashews is so helpful. Nuts contain high levels of calcium and phosphorus, which help neutralize the threat by restoring the body’s supply of these important nutrients.

Green Leafy Vegetables: Kale, spinach, and other greens are also quite good for the teeth. They are full of vitamins, minerals, and folic acid, which helps to improve the overall health of the teeth and the gums. While many babies and toddlers don’t like eating these types of foods, they can often be added to fruit smoothies as a way to get more greens into the diet.

Foods to Avoid for Healthy Teeth

All the attempts at eating a tooth-healthy diet can be thwarted by the addition of too many foods that cause tooth decay. While the occasional treat is okay, especially when the child brushes immediately afterward, but a diet that is full of the foods on this list will mean more trips to the dentist for filling in cavities.

Sugary Drinks: We mentioned above the importance of adding water bottles to the lunchbox instead of sugary drinks like fruit juices. However, there is another drink that is even worse for the teeth: soft drinks. The tiny organisms that live in the mouth consume the sugar and turn it into an acid. This acid leads to serious tooth decay. Plus, the acids in the soft drinks further erode the tooth enamel which exacerbates the situation.  While non-carbonated drinks like sports drinks or fruit juices are slightly better for the teeth than soda, it is better to in the long run to stick to water as much as possible.

Citrus: While citrus fruits and juices may be a great source for the body’s daily intake of vitamin C, they are very high in citric acid, which can erode the enamel of the teeth. That doesn’t mean oranges, grapefruits, and lemons should be eliminated from the diet, they should just be eaten more sparingly. Plus, it is helpful to brush the teeth after consuming them.

Candy: The ultimate source of sugar in most people’s diets comes from candy. These little confections are literally full of sugar, and they can be a major contributing factor to tooth decay. While all candies contain excessive amounts of sugar, the worst kinds for the teeth are chewy candies. Things like taffy, caramels, and gummies stick to the teeth, which can heighten the levels of tooth decay and damage. Chewy candies that are also sour are an even bigger issue because they contain a lot of sugar, but they also have the acids that give them their sour flavor. This is a damaging combination for the teeth. It is best for children to avoid candy as much as possible and brush immediately afterward whenever it is consumed.

Start Healthy Habits

Helping a kid make good choices in their diet will lead to a lifetime of good health, both orally and physically. There will always be times when a little treat of candy or soda is allowed, but ensuring that teeth are brushed afterward will solidify the notion that sugar is harmful to the teeth. At Palm Valley Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics, we want all of our patients to have a lifetime of good oral health. While our practices in Goodyear, Surprise and Buckeye, Verrado offices are open for regular cleanings as well as emergency situations, we prefer our patients to have beautiful teeth free of decay. If you or your child have any questions on how diet relates to good oral health, feel free to ask one of our dental professionals.