Supplying children with a well-balanced diet is more likely to lead to healthier teeth and gums. A good diet provides the child with the many different nutrients they need for normal growth. These nutrients are necessary for gum tissue development, strong bones, and to protect the child against illnesses. Children need vegetables, fruits, meat, grains, beans, and dairy products to grow properly. These different food groups should be eaten in balance for optimal results.
How does my child’s diet affect his or her teeth?
Almost every snack contains at least one type of sugar. While eating sugar-rich snacks, the sugar content attracts oral bacteria. The bacteria feast on food debris left on or around the teeth. Eventually bacteria produce enamel-attacking acids.
While enamel is exposed to acid, it begins to erode – the result is childhood tooth decay. If tooth decay is left untreated for prolonged periods, acids begin to attack the soft tissue (gums) and even the underlying jawbone. Eventually, the teeth become prematurely loose or fall out, causing problems for emerging adult teeth – a condition known as childhood periodontal disease.
Regular dental exams and cleanings at the pediatric dentist’s office are an important part of defense against tooth decay.
How can I alter my child’s diet?
The pediatric dentist will offer advice and dietary counseling for children and parents. Most often, parents are advised to choose healthier snacks, for example, carrot sticks, reduced fat yogurt, and cottage cheese. Pediatric dentists may recommend a fluoride supplement to protect tooth enamel.
Parents should ensure that children are not continuously snacking – even in a healthy manner. Lots of snacking means that sugars are constantly attaching themselves to teeth, and tooth enamel is constantly under attack.
Also, parents are advised to choose faster snacks. Mints and hard candies remain in the mouth for a long period of time – meaning that sugar is coating the teeth longer. If candy is necessary, go for a sugar-free variety or the variety with supplementary sugars such as xylitol or sorbitol.
Should my child eat starch-rich foods?
Children should have a balanced diet, so some carbohydrates and starches are necessary. Starch-rich foods generally include pretzels, chips, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Since starches and carbohydrates break down to form sugar, it is best that they are eaten as part of a meal than as a standalone snack. Provide plenty of water at mealtimes to help the child rinse sugary food particles off the teeth.