Oral health and full body health are inextricably linked. That’s why maintaining a child’s general health and diet is essential for keeping their teeth and gums strong, healthy, and beautiful. A good diet is filled with nutrients that children need to grow. These nutrients are also necessary for the development of strong bones, gum tissue development, and for protecting the child from certain illnesses.
Each day, according to the food pyramid, a child should eat vegetables, fruits, meats, grains, beans, and dairy products. Sugar should be avoided when possible.
How diet affects children’s teeth
Most meals, snacks, and drinks contain some sort of sugar. Parents often realize that candy and chocolate snacks have sugar, but what they may not realize is that many fruit snacks also contain sugar and/or carbohydrates. Foods rich in sugar attract oral bacteria which feast on the food remnants in the mouth and create acids that attack the teeth’s enamel.
Weakened tooth enamel leads to childhood tooth decay. When tooth decay is left untreated, acids begin to attack the gum’s soft tissue and eventually the underlying jawbone. Teeth become prematurely loose and can fall out, creating issues for emerging adult teeth. This condition is known as childhood periodontal disease.
The best ways to prevent this are to limit your child’s sugar intake, schedule regular dental visits, and maintain a proper oral care routine at home.
Ways to alter your child’s diet
Pediatric dentists advise parents to limit the amount of snacks their children eat throughout the day. Continuous snacking, even healthy snacking, means that sugars are constantly in the mouth eroding the child’s tooth enamel. It is recommended that children clean their teeth after eating, but when they have a snack every ten minutes, this becomes impractical!
If children do need a snack, parents should opt for snacks that can be eaten quickly. Things like mints or hard candies stay in the mouth for a long period of time, meaning sugars are allowed to coat the teeth longer than they should. If the child wants candy, parents should give them a sugar-free variety.
Sticky foods should also be avoided. Stickiness is incredibly difficult to remove from teeth and children may not be as patient as you are during brushing.
Overall, parents should also provide their children with healthy snacks like reduced-fat yogurt, cottage cheese, or carrot and celery sticks. The child’s pediatric dentist may also recommend a fluoride coating or supplement to strengthen their teeth, especially if they live in an area where fluoride is not added to the community water supply.
A final piece of dietary advice is to provide your child with plenty of water during mealtimes. Water, as opposed to sodas or juices, doesn’t include any additional sugars and will help rinse the sugary food particles off the teeth.
Are starch-rich foods okay for my child?
Once eaten, starches and carbohydrates break down into sugars, having the same effect as eating something sweet. Starch-rich foods include chips, pretzels, and bread. Starches and carbohydrates are a necessary part of any diet, but like anything, must be consumed in moderation. Starch and carbohydrates are best eaten as part of a meal when saliva production is higher than as a standalone snack.
If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s diet or their general oral health, please contact Brooklyn Dentist.