Eating a healthy diet is important to promote strong teeth in children.
Encourage a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in sugar. When bacteria, which is normally found in the mouth, comes in contact with sugars and starches, they produce an acid that is capable of dissolving the enamel on the teeth and starting decay.
Types of Food that Promote Strong Teeth in Children
The types of food that children eat have a direct correlation to their long term dental health. Proper nutrition is an effective tactic in preventive dentistry because the quality and consistency of foods that are consumed can affect oral health, especially the risk of tooth decay.
Foods that are high in antioxidants and other nutrients improve immunity and strengthen the body’s bacteria- fighting abilities which, in turn, can help protect the teeth and gums. In addition, the texture and consistency of foods can be a benefit or detriment to overall oral health. Teaching children to make healthy and nutritional food choices is one of the best things you can do for their teeth.
Choosing Foods for Healthy Teeth
Bacteria naturally present in the mouth convert sugar and carbohydrates into acids that attack the teeth and cause tooth decay. Some foods are far less likely to contribute to cavities and, in fact, provide nutrients which increase tooth protection, while others actually help clean the teeth.
Foods that help keep teeth clean and healthy include:
- Fruits and vegetables: Crunchy, raw fruits and vegetables, such as apples and carrots, can help remove bacteria that adheres to the surface of the teeth. Melons, celery, pears, and cucumbers that have high water content also help clean teeth and promote overall health.
- Protein: Lean meats, such as chicken, turkey, and white fish are a good source of protein, which helps strengthen tooth enamel. Nuts and low-sugar peanut butter also provide protein and are a quick energy source for kids.
- Calcium-rich products: Low-fat dairy products, such as yogurt and skim milk, are excellent sources of calcium, which is crucial for building strong teeth. Cheese not only delivers calcium, but lingers on teeth and protects them, as well as providing protein and promoting saliva flow.
Some foods make teeth more susceptible to cavities and should be limited or avoided, if possible. Limiting the intake of certain foods and drinks will lessen your child’s risk for tooth decay.
Some common contributors to cavity formation include:
- Sugary drinks: Sweetened juices, sodas, and drinks containing large amounts of sugar and should be limited. Even regular milk, especially chocolate milk, contains sugar and should be consumed moderately.
- Chewy or sticky foods: Hard or gummy candies, caramel, and chewy granola bars can stick to teeth and, if frequently eaten and allowed to remain on teeth without brushing, can lead to serious decay.
- Desserts: Cookies, cakes, ice cream, and other sweets should be eaten in moderation. If possible, give sweet treats directly after a meal instead of as a snack, since more saliva is present in the mouth after a meal and can help clear away the sugar particles. Brushing your teeth after eating sweets is the best way to ensure that the sugar does not remain on teeth and cause cavities.
- Acidic foods and drinks: Citrus fruits and tomatoes contain acid that can wear away tooth enamel if consumed too frequently. Consuming acidic foods and drinks with other foods as part of a meal will minimize the acid and protect the teeth.
Extra Tips for Keeping Teeth Strong and Healthy
- Limit snacking: Establish a routine of not eating unnecessarily between meals. Eating frequently without brushing allows food particles to stay on teeth, which fuels the growth of bacteria. Excessive snacking also makes it difficult for the mouth to create enough saliva to adequately keep the teeth clean. Serve snacks such as raw fruits and vegetables which help remove bacteria and food particles from teeth.
- Drink water: Make it a habit to give your child water rather than sweetened beverages. Tap water contains fluoride which strengthens and protects teeth while washing the teeth clean at the same time.
- If chewing gum, use sugarless: Chewing gum that is sugar-free can actually be a dental benefit. The chewing action can dislodge food and help the flow of saliva which neutralizes mouth acids. If the gum is sweetened with Xylitol, it will help decrease bacteria in the mouth, as well.
Together with regular brushing and visiting your dentist, encouraging a healthy, well-balanced diet at an early age will help your child form good habits that will positively impact his or her dental well-being for a lifetime.Back to Dental Topics
Dr. Shane Fisher
Dr. Shane Fisher, a board certified pediatric dentist, has over 15 years of providing comprehensive dental care for infants, children and teenagers. He has consistently received 5 star ratings throughout social media. He has patients that travel from all over the metropolitan area including Mequon, Whitefish Bay, Thiensville, River Hills, Fox Point, Glendale and other northern Milwaukee suburbs.
If you would like for your child to have a great experience at a pediatric dentist, please call Dr. Shane A. Fisher at The Kids Dentist 262-241-0400 or complete an online appointment request.