Nutrition plays a significant role in your child’s oral health. That said, making proper food choices is one of the best ways to help your child maintain healthy teeth and gums.
As your child’s personal grocery shopper and cook, you are responsible for what type of food they eat. So if you want to ensure that they have good oral health, here are the types of food your child should avoid as well as the foods that they should eat more of.
What to avoid
- Chewy or hard candy
Every reputable pediatric dentist will advise you to avoid letting your child eat too much chewy or hard candy. It’s perfectly okay to let them eat an appropriate amount every once in a while, but you should never let them eat too much. Otherwise, your child can be put at risk of tooth decay, which happens because the sugar interacts with the bacteria on teeth to produce acid. When left untreated, tooth decay can lead to tooth abscesses, which may require removal of the affected tooth.
It’s unrealistic (and even a bit cruel) to ban candy from your child’s diet. But every time they eat some, have them drink water to flush most of the sugar from their teeth, and ensure that they brush their teeth to remove the remnants.
- Starchy foods
Starchy foods like rice, bread, pasta, and chips are often staples of children’s diets. And just like candy, it’s not possible to avoid starchy foods altogether, since they are also main sources of carbohydrates. You can, however, moderate your child’s intake of starchy foods.
Why should starchy foods be avoided in the first place? Because when starch stays on the teeth for enough time, they can be converted into sugar, which can turn into acid that causes tooth decay. The best way to mitigate this risk is by encouraging your child to brush and floss their teeth after every meal, even if they haven’t eaten anything particularly starchy. Helping them hone this habit will help them avoid tooth decay as well as other dental problems as they grow older.
- Sugary drinks
Sugary drinks include energy drinks, sodas, juice boxes, and sports drinks. These beverages contain a lot of sugar, which is responsible for giving kids that sudden burst of energy (which is then usually followed by a sugar crash). Apart from that, sugary drinks can lead to tooth decay as well as enamel erosion, which can be extremely damaging to your child’s teeth.
A great way to limit your child’s consumption of sugary drinks is to not store them at your house. This of course means that you should limit your own consumption of sugar-rich drinks as well. Nevertheless, limiting your child’s intake of sugary drinks will not only prevent hyperactivity (and the succeeding crash-and-burn), but it will also protect their teeth against decay and erosion.
- Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and limes, are healthy, but they are also acidic. As you can probably tell by now, acid can erode your child’s tooth enamel, making them more susceptible to tooth decay.
What to eat
- Calcium-rich foods
Calcium helps keeps our jawbones healthy, which is imperative to keep our teeth in place. Incorporate calcium-rich foods into your child’s diet to achieve their recommended intake. Examples of which are dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.), green leafy vegetables (okra, spinach, kale, etc.), baked products with fortified flour, soybeans, sardines, and many more.
It’s also recommended to increase the intake of phosphorus so that calcium can reach its full bone-strengthening potential in our bodies. Foods rich in phosphorus include poultry, nuts, beans, fish, and dairy products, where they can be found organically.
- Fruits and vegetables
Of course, fruits and vegetables are good for everyone. But they are especially important for children since they are going through their crucial growth and developmental years.
Crisp, raw fruits, and vegetables (apples, celery, carrots, etc.) help clean plaque from teeth. Leafy greens contain abundant amounts of folic acid, which promotes good oral health. Most fruits and vegetables contain the vitamins and antioxidants your child needs to protect their gums and teeth from a myriad of oral problems, including cavities, bacterial infection, and gum disease.
As an added benefit, sweet fruits and vegetables can also substitute for candy or chocolate when your child is craving something sweet.
The benefits of protecting your child’s oral health can last for the rest of their life. With a good foundation of oral health, they will be less susceptible to dental problems, even as they reach adulthood. Moreover, they will know which foods to avoid and which ones to eat more of, which will not only protect their dental health but also their physiological health as well.