How nutrition can affect dental health
You probably remember what it was like to be a kid in the morning – or just before bed – with your parents asking you: “Did you brush your teeth?!”
Now that you’re the parent, it doesn’t seem like such a chore anymore, right?
As a parent, you want the best for your kids – and that certainly includes healthy teeth, especially if you know what it’s like to suffer from cavities or other dental concerns. But did you know that optimal oral health is not just about directly taking care of your teeth?
Certainly, brushing, flossing and regular trips to the dentist are – and will always be – a huge part of keeping your child’s teeth and gums strong and thriving. But there is another aspect of care that is crucial: diet and nutrition.
We all know that too much sugar is bad for our teeth, but it’s not just plain sugar, as too many carbohydrates (which, yes, are essentially sugars) can also have a decaying effect. And it’s not just sugar, as acidic foods can also eat through enamel, making teeth vulnerable to bacteria. And that goes double for young, developing mouths.
On the other hand, there are certain foods that do in fact, promote healthy teeth and actually make them stronger.
So, it is of paramount importance that you keep an eye on what your kid is eating in order to keep their teeth as healthy as possible. It’s also smart to help them develop healthy habits that will serve them well throughout their lives.
Why are sugars and acids bad for teeth?
We have bacteria – good and bad – all throughout our bodies, including on our teeth. And when you eat sweets or drink fruit juices or gorge on too many starchy snacks, the bacteria on your teeth feed on the sugars present in those foods. In the process of digesting those sugars, the bacteria produce acids, which is then excreted on to your teeth.
That acid gradually dissolves the enamel – a clear, protective coating – surrounding your teeth. Once enough decay has occurred it produces a cavity, that will only grow over time, sinking deeper into the tooth.
That also goes for acids that you introduce to your teeth from foods such as oranges, lemons and limes, as the acids within can also eat through enamel through constant consuming.
So, what diet promotes healthy teeth?
There is more to it than simply avoiding sugars. And, come on, they’re kids, so completely avoiding sugar may be impossible. But there are several things you can do to help your children’s teeth stay as healthy as possible – and these tips will also promote the overall health of your kid, as it is all related.
- Don’t snack – This is probably the number one most healthy habit a person can develop as it pertains to their entire health. Snacking, especially for kids, usually comprises some sort of sweet or carbohydrate, so by avoiding snacks all together, you can make a big dent in the chance of attracting decay. Avoiding snacking also has a knock-on effect for your overall health and will help you avoid weight gain. By eating three separate meals per day, you minimize the times when your teeth are exposed to potential dangers.
- Eat vegetables and (some) fruits instead of simple carbs or sweets – We understand that, at times, it’s impossible to avoid snacking altogether. In those instances, it’s best to have non-sweet options at hand. Sure, it’s also fine to eat some fruits, such as apples and pears and melons, but try to avoid bananas and any sort of dried fruit due to the concentrated sugar content. The same goes for simple carbs like chips and pretzels. Vegetables, such as celery, carrots, avocado (you can even get avocado mash, which is pretty much guacamole, straight from the grocery store), and radishes are great choices. While cheese also contains calcium, which strengthens teeth, and many types of plain nuts also offer great options (though be careful of too many hard nuts for tooth health).
- Avoid chewy, sticky foods – Sugar is bad enough, but if it is distributed via sticky foods – such as dried fruits, granola, chewy sweets (such as jellybeans), caramel, honey, molasses, etc. – it can be particularly pernicious. That’s because it will stay attached to the tooth longer and thus provide more of a feast for that dangerous bacteria we already talked about.
- Buy foods that are naturally sugar-free or unsweetened – Natural sugars are present in many of the foods we eat, but so many other products, especially processed foods, add sugars in order to improve taste. Get adept at reading labels on food containers and avoiding products that add sugars if at all possible. Substances such as “maltodextrin” are in loads of processed foods, and it is essentially a sweetener and carbohydrate with no nutritional value.
- Keep sweets as a treat after meals – not on their own – We are not saying there is no place for sweets or treats in your kids’ lives, far from it. You just should be judicious about when they get those treats. If you eat sweets after a meal, your mouth will be full of saliva, as the enzymes in saliva begin the digestive process. The cool thing is that saliva also helps to replenish and protect enamel, so eating sweets when you’re already salivating helps protect your teeth. The minerals in your saliva, such as calcium and phosphate help the enamel repair itself by replacing minerals lost during when acid eats away at it – the process is called remineralization.
- Drink water instead of juice – Water is the absolute best thing for your body. First off, you need to stay hydrated, period. And doing so also keeps your saliva flowing (remember what we said above). Water also helps clean your mouth and wash off any sugars hanging around, and there are no dietary minuses to consuming it. Juice, while tasty, harbors both sugars and acids in high quantity, with relatively few dietary positives – yes, you may get vitamins from juice, but the lack of fiber in juice also helps spike your blood sugar levels, which creates other problems besides oral health. So, while it may be a little boring, water is the absolute best thing to drink.
- Chew xylitol-sweetened gum – Again, remember that saliva helps protect your teeth, and chewing gum sweetened with xylitol not only produces more saliva it also helps clean food particles from your teeth. Xyitol also does not produce the same effect as sugar, meaning it is a tooth-friendly treat.
Getting your kids to stick to these tips, while also maintaining great hygiene, will give them a huge leg up in the quest for strong oral health for life.
If you have any questions about better dental health for your children or are in need of a dentist here in north Georgia, please do not hesitate to contact us at Kids Dentistry. Our Gainesville office and Flowery Branch location are always available to you, so call us now at 678-450-7011 or visit our website at https://www.kidsdentistryga.com