Why does my child's diet matter?
Good nutrition leads to good health and good teeth. Poor nutrition leads to poor health and poor teeth. Children should eat balanced meals composed of complex carbohydrates, protein foods, and plenty of fruits and vegetables, to ensure the proper development of teeth, and for healthy gums.
How do I make my child's diet safe for his/her teeth?
Foods that are not good for your child’s teeth are those that create an acid environment in the mouth, stick in the crevices of the molars, or adhere to the teeth. These include the following:
- Carbonated beverages, because the acid in the carbonation can cause damage to the teeth
- Snack items like potato chips, candies and pretzels that stick in the biting surface of the back teeth (molars)
- Sugary drinks like juices and energy drinks that pool in the gum pockets, causing tooth damage and decay at the gum lines and between the teeth
Not only is it important to be careful about what your child eats and drinks, but also when and how often they eat. Frequent or “at will” feeding of any carbohydrate, juice, milk, or snacks, is associated with a high incidence of dental decay. This is because it allows less time for the mouth to create a non-acid environment where the teeth can re-mineralize and recover from any damage.
Should my child give up all sugar?
While that would seem ideal, we all know that children, and adults as well, enjoy a treat now and then. You can select and serve them wisely, though. A food with sugar or refined starch is safer for teeth if it is eaten after a well-balanced meal, and not as a snack. Remember too, sticky foods such as toffee or dried fruit are not easily washed off the teeth by saliva. These foods have more cavity-causing potential than those that are rapidly eliminated from the mouth.
My youngest child is not on solid foods yet, any suggestions?
Do not nurse your child to sleep or put him or her to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, juice or sweetened liquid. While your child sleeps, any unswallowed liquid in the mouth supports bacteria that produce acids and cause cavities. Protect your child from severe decay by putting him or her to bed with nothing more than a bottle of water.
Any final advice?
Yes. Shop smart. Buy your groceries on the outside aisles, where you will find the healthier food, such as: Fruits, Vegetables, Dairy, Protein, & Whole Grains. Limit the purchase of all sugary, refined, & processed foods. Read all labels remembering that sugar is often hidden in condiments, such as ketchup and salad dressings, and in other prepared foods.