Starting your child young with healthy dental habits ensures they have a head start in terms of maintaining healthy teeth as they grow into adulthood. In addition to brushing and flossing regularly, and visiting the dentist often, the food your child eats has a big impact on the health of their teeth and gums. Some food and drinks are good for your teeth, while others are bad and should be avoided. Here's the skinny on the good and the bad when it comes to your child's teeth and what they consume.
Water is great for teeth! Your body needs water to produce saliva. As a rinsing agent for your mouth, saliva keeps teeth and gums wet and helps get rid of food bits. But not just any water will do. The carbon dioxide in sparkling water is acidic and wears away your tooth enamel, which weakens teeth and makes them susceptible to cavities. Also, unless specifically stated on the label, bottled water does not contain fluoride. Stick to fluoridated tap water as your child's main water source, which helps halt tooth decay by strengthening their tooth enamel. If your city does not provide fluoridated water, consider a vitamin supplement to provide your child the fluoride advantage.
Small, green, and fuzzy, kiwis are among the highest providers of Vitamin C in fruits. Skip eating oranges for their Vitamin C, whose high acid content only hurts teeth. Vitamin C strengthens the collagen of your child's gum tissue. Stronger gums means better defense against different gum diseases. Cut a whole kiwi in half and have your child scoop out the flesh of each half with a spoon.
Dairy products without extra sugar are all great sources of calcium, phosphates and Vitamin D. Calcium aids in the formation of strong teeth and bones, crucial in the development of your child. Vitamin D's anti-inflammatory properties help prevent gingivitis. High phosphate levels present in cheese help balance the mouth's pH level. Remember, high acid amounts mean weak tooth enamel.
A perfect snack for children over 3 years in age are nuts, which offer a wide range of precious vitamins and minerals beneficial for healthy teeth. Walnuts are rich in Vitamin E, which, as an antioxidant, reduces harmful free radicals that damage gum tissue. Other healthy nuts are cashews and peanuts. Next time, offer your child nuts instead of sticky raisins.
Raisins and other sticky dried fruit like prunes and apricots are pretty much like caramel. Thick, gummy, and possessing high concentrations of sugar, dried fruit adheres to every tooth it touches. Unlike sticky candy, dried fruit is worse because it contains non-soluble cellulose fiber, which does not break down in water like apples, pears, and cucumbers. Insoluble fiber clumps together, staying on your child's teeth for longer periods of time.
It may be the staff of life, but starchy products made of wheat such as bread, pasta, and pretzels like to stick between teeth where they quickly convert to sugar. Bacteria in the mouth are attracted to this, so much so they linger and eventually form cavities if not removed. Potato chips and french fries are just as guilty.
If your child loves crunching ice cubes, that's asking for damaged enamel. Ice and other extremely hard substances can create tiny chips or cracks in the enamel, making it more susceptible to dental problems down the road like chipped teeth. Potential tooth-cracking foods to eat with care are olives that may have pits, popcorn with hidden unpopped kernels, and frozen candy bars. Lastly, don't let your child open packages with their teeth, which can end up breaking a tooth — encourage them to use scissors or get adult help.
Talk with a dentist like David B Anderson, DDS, PC if you're concerned about your child's oral health.