Parents have a lot on their plate and taking care of their kids’ oral health is a biggie! The Comfort Care Family Dental team is here to help make it easier for you and your child to implement good oral care practices and develop good dental care habits early on! You can schedule a consultation appointment with our team and we would be glad to assist you and your child take the best possible care of their teeth. In the meantime, it is important to start making changes at home, starting today, to protect your child’s teeth. Surprisingly, the food your child eats has an effect on more than just their general health and growth- it can affect their teeth and gums! A good diet and smart food choices and good dental care are some of the best ways to make kids’ oral health a priority in your home. And a good way to start is by knowing what foods to eat and what foods to avoid!
Foods Dentists Like
Most parents know that their children need to eat healthy foods and that foods with a lot of sugar are bad and foods with good vitamins and nutrients are good. But what specific foods should be added and what specific foods should be avoided to ensure kids’ oral health and wellness is maintained? Here are a few examples of green light foods dentists recommend:
Fresh Veggies and Fruit
“There are several different types of bacteria in your child’s mouth, and some of them can cause gingivitis, which is the first stage of gum disease, says Melvin Pierson, DDS, a spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry. Vitamin C in fruits…helps kill these bacteria, and it also promotes a healthy supply of collagen in the gums” (Parents). Other good vegetables include red, orange, yellow, and green veggies. Dentists advise kids to wait a half hour after eating citrus and other fruits before brushing their teeth. This is because the acid in citrus can weaken the enamel temporarily and brushing may damage it. Kids’ oral health is important and eating the right foods can really help!
Foods High in Dairy
Starchy carbohydrates in white foods like bread, chips, rice, and potatoes turn into sugar and get stuck to your child’s teeth when they eat these foods. This sugar causes bacteria to grow on the teeth and this leads to cavities and tooth decay. When your child drinks milk or eats yogurt or cheese, or other foods with calcium, vitamin D, and phosphate “it raises the pH level in his mouth, lowers acid levels, and reduces the risk of tooth decay, says Ray J. Jurado, DDS, director of pediatric dentistry at Children’s Memorial Hospital, in Chicago” (Parents). Calcium also helps build bones and teeth and strengthens the enamel coating on our teeth as well so encourage lots of calcium foods every day.
Raw Veggies and Chewing Foods
Crisp veggies are a great way to get kids to snack healthy and also improve the health of their teeth. Foods that require a lot of chewing actually helps to clean your child’s teeth. These foods naturally scrape away plaque that builds up between meals or that kids miss when brushing. So, offer carrot sticks, celery, raw cauliflower, apples, and other fresh foods that require chewing. Encourage your child to chew slowly and fully so they get the full benefit of every bite. This cannot be a substitute for brushing and flossing but it is a better option than candy or cookies for snack time. As a parent you know your kids’ oral health is important and offering healthy snacks can help protect your child’s teeth.
Seeds and Nuts With Healthy Fats
Nuts and seeds are not only crunchy and chewy but they also contain natural fats and oils. These are great for your child’s teeth because this oil coats teeth and gums and will actually help protect against bacteria. The oils and fatty acids found in many nuts and seeds help strengthen enamel, kills bacterial, reduced the chances of cavities, and most seeds are also packed with antioxidants that help with overall health and wellness too. A handful of nuts and seeds or a healthy trail mix is a smart snack idea or a great option for an at school lunchtime surprise that your kids will enjoy and that you will feel good about too!
Many kids like to chew gum but many parents worry about the sugar content in most gums these days as their focus is on their kids’ oral health. Thankfully there are a lot more options available now than there were 5-10 years ago and sugarless gum is usually easy to find. Some studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals can help prevent tooth decay, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). “In fact, the ADA recently gave its Seal of Acceptance to Orbit, Extra, and Eclipse gums after Wrigley conducted studies demonstrating its brands’ benefits. However, kids shouldn’t chew gum until at least age [5-6], when you can trust them not to swallow it” (Parents).
Foods Dentists Hate
Sugar is one of the leading culprits behind the childhood obesity epidemic. In the United States, this epidemic has grown to a staggering point where one in three children are now overweight or obese. Reducing soda and candy intake will obviously help, but we as parents must do more to protect kids’ oral health each and every day with smart choices that reduce sugar intake.
While it is fairly obvious that sugar is bad for kids’ teeth, and while it is also obvious that any sugar added directly to our food will impact our teeth, few people really think about the sugar we add to our diets every day. A spoon of sugar on morning oatmeal, sugar added to tea in the morning, sugar added to lemonade after school, it all adds up quickly and only a few spoonfuls are enough to cause damage to teeth! When it comes to protecting our kids’ oral health, one of the best things we can do is to get rid of table sugar and limit the use of added sugar in the food and drinks our kids consume each and every day.
Parents often learn as they go and that is part of parenting, but it is important to think carefully and be aware of the foods you are giving your child when you are trying to protect kids’ oral health. Many common foods we think are healthy are actually full of sugar- yogurt being a big one. “You might think yogurt is a healthy snack, but in reality, it can contain as much sugar as a Snickers bar. There is already naturally occurring sugar in milk, so yogurt’s added flavors only hike up its sugar content. Try to buy plain yogurt and add some green light foods, like berries, to add extra flavor and sweetness” (Kurbo).
Every parent knows soda is bad for kids’ teeth and is one of the leading causes of cavities. However, many parents are surprised to find that fruit juice can be just as bad! “Kids might like to start off the day with a glass of orange juice or apple juice, but even 100% fruit juices are a sugar shock in the diet. When fruit is juiced its fiber and most of its nutrients are lost, while its sugar content becomes more concentrated… It is much healthier to cut up some fresh fruit to get some natural sweetness in the morning” (Kurbo). So switch the juice for water and add the actual fruit to the menu to get those important vitamins and minerals.
Candy is a no-no for many dentists and many parents strive to limit the candy that their children eat. However, there is one certain type of candy that is the worse of them all- sticky sweet candy. Things like taffy, caramel, and brittles are some of the worst offenders because they are much more sticky than chocolate and other candy. It gets stuck to the teeth and into the cracks and crevices much easier. It sticks and lingers on the tooth surface and can do more damage if it is not removed quickly. So, limit sticky sweets and if your child does eat them, make sure they brush and floss as soon as they are done with their treat!
Contact Comfort Care Family Dental
To learn more about ways you can protect your kids’ oral health and help them develop good oral care habits now, contact us today. The Comfort Care Family Dental team is here to help! Call now and schedule a consultation appointment with our team and let us help you and your child take the best possible care of their teeth- whether they still have their baby teeth or they have their full adult teeth in! Kids’ oral health is our passion and we are here to help so call today and make your first appointment with us today!