Encouraging Kids to Eat FOR, Not Just WITH, Their Teeth
Teeth are used for chewing, but parents and kids should also know that the types of foods they eat can affect both their chompers and the health of their gum tissue. To safeguard children from tooth decay, it’s essential that parents be mindful of the food choices they make for their children during meals and at snack time.
Foods to Avoid for Healthy Teeth and Gums
Foods that are high in sugar or highly acidic help harmful bacteria flourish inside the mouth. They are also extra-tough on enamel, the top protective layer of the teeth. To keep your child’s teeth healthy, Dr. Stewart recommends avoiding the following foods and drinks.
1. Sugary Beverages
Sugary beverages like juice and soda are not good choices. Although many parents start their kids on juice quite early, Dr. Stewart recommends avoiding it, as children will then develop a preference for sugary drinks that contribute to tooth decay. In addition, these high-sugar choices are also surprisingly acidic. They can wear down tooth enamel without any additional help from bacteria.
2. Candy and Sticky Foods
Sticky foods like gummies and fruit snacks cling to the surface of teeth, promote bacterial growth, and are difficult to remove when brushing. Suckers are not only sugary and sticky, but they stay in the mouth for a prolonged period of time. It’s ok to have a treat every now and then, so instead elect for a plain piece of dark chocolate that will melt away.
3. Starchy Carbohydrates
Snacks that are high in starchy carbohydrates, like your child’s favorite goldfish-shaped crackers, are not the ideal choice. Starchy crackers stick to the chewing surfaces of molars, leaving a feast for harmful bacteria and the teeth primed for tooth decay.
Foods That Are Good for Teeth
According to the AAPD, parents should balance their child’s meals and incorporate all the food groups — fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein. The following foods will boost your child’s bacteria-fighting immune system and are also chock-full of the vitamins and minerals teeth need.
1. Fruits and Vegetables
Although fruits and veggies contain natural sugars, the crunch of raw produce (like apples and carrots) actually helps remove bacteria from the surface of teeth. Options like melon, cucumber, celery, and pears that are high in water rinse the teeth. These food options are also packed with nutrients.
Calcium-rich foods such as yogurt and milk contain some of the minerals that bones and teeth need to develop. Cheese is rich in calcium, packs protein, and it helps to balance the pH level in the mouth. Eating cheese stimulates saliva production and lowers the mouth’s acidity levels. Cheese can of course help your teeth anytime you consume it, but research shows that it’s especially beneficial after a meal or a sugary drink.
Protein from a variety of sources such as fish, chicken, and eggs will help strengthen your child’s tooth enamel. Nuts and no-sugar-added peanut butter are perfect high-protein, kid-friendly options to choose at snack time. For more information about the best diet for your child’s teeth, we welcome you to talk with Dr. Stewart at Kenmore Pediatric Dentistry.