People can prevent two of the most common diseases today – tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease – simply by improving their diet. Make sure your child has a balanced diet. Limit sugars and starches to help protect your child’s teeth from decay.
Decay results when the hard tissues are destroyed by acid products from bacteria. Although poor nutrition does not directly cause periodontal disease, many researchers believe that the disease progresses faster and is more severe in patients whose diet does not supply the necessary nutrients. Poor nutrition can suppress your entire immune system, increasing your vulnerability to many disorders. People with lowered immune systems have been shown to be at higher risk for periodontal disease.
Studies are showing that dental disease is just as related to overeating as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.
Children’s nutrition and teeth
Just like regular brushing, flossing, and semi-annual dental checkups, proper nutrition plays a critical role in the development of your child’s teeth. A proper, balanced diet is one of the best things you can do as a parent to help ensure your child grows up with strong teeth and gums, and a healthy smile.
A healthy diet is a balanced diet that naturally supplies all the nutrients your child needs to grow. This includes fruits and vegetables; breads and cereals; milk and dairy products; meat, fish, and eggs.
A balanced diet is essential for healthy gum tissue around the teeth. A diet high in certain kinds of carbohydrates, such as sugar and starches, may place your child at extra risk of tooth decay. Harmful starchy foods include breads, crackers, pasta, and such snacks as pretzels and potato chips. Even fruits, a few vegetables and most milk products have at least one type of sugar. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, for example, not only has sugar in the jelly, but may have sugar added to the peanut butter. Sugar is also added to such condiments as catsup and salad dressings.
Kids who consume too much soda and not enough nutritional beverages are prone to tooth decay in addition to serious ailments later in life, such as diabetes and osteoporosis. Drinking carbonated soft drinks regularly can contribute to the erosion of tooth enamel. Soft drinks contain sticky sugars that bacteria in our mouths use as an energy source. They break down into acids and adhere to tooth surfaces. Using a straw when drinking soda can help keep sugar away from teeth.
Remind your child to rinse his or her mouth with water after meals, especially during school, in order to leave their teeth free of sugar and acid.
A balanced diet does not assure that your child is getting enough fluoride. Fluoride protects teeth from tooth decay and helps heal early decay. Fluoride is in the drinking water of some towns and cities. Ask us if your water has fluoride in it. If it doesn’t, we can discuss giving your child a prescription for fluoride drops. First, here are the essentials:
- Eat a balanced diet is one that includes fruits and vegetables; breads and cereals; milk and dairy products; meat, fish, and eggs. Crunchy, healthy fruits such as carrots and apples not only provide great nutrition, but also are a natural way to clean the teeth.
- Minimize starchy foods such as breads, crackers, pasta, pretzels and potato chips. Remember, some foods that contain sugar or starch are much safer if they are consumed with a meal, not as a snack.
- Be aware that some presumably healthy foods, such as peanut butter, jelly, catsup, salad dressings, raisins, pudding, dried fruits, chocolate milk, ice cream, fruit strips, milk shakes, and granola bars contain sugars that can break down and promote tooth decay. Ensure that your child brushes after eating these kinds of snacks.
- Eat sweet or sticky foods between meals. Sticky foods, such as dried fruit or toffee, have more cavity-causing potential because they are not easily washed away from the teeth by saliva, water or milk.
- Eat a diet that’s high in carbohydrates like sugar and starches. This puts your child at a much higher risk for tooth decay.
- Allow your child to eat any of these kinds of food without brushing immediately afterward: cake, gummy bears, cookies, sherbet, candy, popsicles and chocolate bars.
- Allow your child to drink excessive amounts of soda.
- Put your child to bed with a bottle containing formula, milk, juice or other sweet liquid. As your child sleeps, the liquid begins to pool in her mouth, essentially bathing her new teeth in enamel-destroying bacteria and other harmful substances. A bottle with water is a much more sensible alternative.