Healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. Like the rest of the body, the teeth, bones and the soft tissues of the mouth need a well-balanced diet. Children should eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups. Most snacks that children eat can lead to cavity formation. The more frequently a child snacks, the greater the chance for tooth decay. How long food remains in the mouth also plays a role. For example, hard candy and breath mints stay in the mouth a long time, which cause longer acid attacks on tooth enamel. If your child must snack, choose nutritious foods such as vegetables, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat cheese, which are healthier and better for children’s teeth.
Most of the time cavities are due to a diet high in sugary foods and a lack of brushing. Limiting sugar intake and brushing regularly, of course, can help.
The longer it takes your child to chew their foods and the longer the residue stays on their teeth, the greater the chances of getting cavities. Every time someone eats, an acid reaction occurs inside their mouth as the bacteria digest the sugars. This reaction lasts approximately twenty minutes.
During this time the acid environment can destroy the tooth structure, eventually leading to cavities.
Consistency of a person’s saliva also makes a difference; thinner saliva breaks up and washes away food more quickly. When a person has a diet high in carbohydrates and sugars, they tend to have thicker saliva, which in turn produces more of the acid-producing bacteria that causes cavities.
Tips for cavity prevention:
Limit frequency of meals and snacks.
- Help your child brush and floss regularly.
- Avoid sticky foods (fruit rolls and sticky dried fruit).
- Make treats part of meals.
- Choose nutritious snacks.
- Do not reward or bribe your child using candy or other unhealthy foods.
- Ask your doctor about medications that may cause a dry mouth. Saliva is necessary to wash away food.
- Some medications are high in sugar. Brush teeth after using them.
- Avoid high carbohydrate/sugary sports drinks or juices. Most fruit juices (apple) are high in sugar and low in nutritional value.
- Baby teeth are important as they not only hold space for permanent teeth but they are important to chewing, biting, speech and appearance.
Q. What is an appropriate diet for my child?
A. It is important that your child receives a naturally balanced diet that includes the important nutrients your child needs in order to grow. A daily diet should include the major food groups of meat, fish and eggs, vegetables and fruits, breads and cereals as well as milk and other dairy products.
Q. Can my child’s diet affect their dental health?
A. Absolutely. It is important that you initiate a balanced diet for your child so that their teeth develop appropriately. In addition, this will positively affect healthy gum tissue surrounding the teeth. Please note that a diet high in sugar and other forms of carbohydrates may increase the probability of tooth decay.
Q. How do I create a diet safe for my child’s teeth?
A. initiate a balanced diet. Analyze the frequency in which starch-based foods are eaten. These types of foods include breads, pasta, potato chips, crackers, cookies, etc. In addition, sugar is found in more than just candy. All types of sugars can promote tooth decay. For example, most milk-based products contain sugar. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a favorite for bag lunches. Unfortunately, it includes sugar not only in the jelly, but also in the peanut butter. For less sugar and more flavor and nutrients, try replacing jelly with fresh fruit slices (apples, pears, or bananas). Go easy on the peanut butter, though—it’s high in fat. Choose the “no-salt-added” kind for less sodium.
Q. Should I eliminate all sugar and starch from my child’s diet?
A. Of course not. Many of these foods are incredibly important to your child’s health. Starch-based foods are much safer to eat for teeth when eaten with an entire meal. Foods that stick to teeth are also more difficult to wash away by water, saliva or other drinks. It is important you talk to our staff about your child’s diet and maintaining proper dental care.
Q. What helpful information can you give me regarding tooth decay in infants?
A. Most importantly, don’t nurse your children to sleep. Nor should you put them to bed with a bottle of milk, juice or formula. When a child is sleeping, any liquid that remains in the mouth can support the bacteria that produce acid and harm the teeth. A simple pacifier or bottle of water is fine.
Q. How do I know if my child is getting the appropriate amount of fluoride in their diet?
A. If you do not reside in a community that has fluoridated water or have the appropriate amount of natural fluoride in your well water, your child will need some sort of supplement in their diet. We can help you determine how much of a supplement your child needs based upon their weight, age, current water fluoride levels and brand of toothpaste.