Children– and particularly very young children– are notoriously picky eaters. What your child eats and what he avoids eating, however, can have a profound impact on his oral health. While many parents work hard to instill proper oral hygiene from day one, they less often consider how proper nutrition is related to the health of their child’s smile. To help your little ones fend off tooth decay, consider the following nutritional tips:
- Give fruit and veggie munchies. If your child is craving an after school snack, avoid going the chip or cookie route. Excessive carbohydrate, sugar, and starch intake is linked to tooth decay. Instead, offer your child a fruit or vegetable snack. Pears, celery, and cucumbers are all particularly good choices, as they contain a high amount of water.
- Calcium counts. Calcium builds strong teeth and bones, so make sure to include good sources of it in your child’s diet. What are the best healthy sources of calcium? Yogurt, broccoli, and milk are good for your child’s overall health and have the added bonus of helping your little one maintain a glowing smile.
- Go for the cheese. You can offer it as a snack or add it to a sandwich at lunch time, but consider making cheese a regular part of your child’s diet. Besides being loaded with calcium, cheese helps to get your child’s saliva flowing, thereby washing away pesky food particles that linger in the mouth.
- Hydrate with water. As often as possible, offer your child water to drink. While fruit juices are popular with children, they’re also full of sugar that can wreak havoc on their tiny teeth. Water contains no sugar which makes it an ideal choice for your child’s sippy cup or post-practice hydration. Additionally, avoid putting infants and toddlers to bed with a bottle full of milk, juice, soda, or formula.
- Avoid frequent snacking. It’s fine to offer your child a couple of snacks throughout the day– particularly the aforementioned fruits and veggies. But frequent snacking provides a constant food source for the plaque-producing bacteria in your child’s mouth. Additionally, the time between meals gives your child’s saliva a chance to do its job: washing away leftover food particles that could lead to decay.
- Steer clear of hard or chewy candies. It’s no secret that candy isn’t an ally when it comes to maintaining oral health. Candies that are hard or chewy are particularly notorious for damaging formerly healthy smiles. While lollipops and other hard candies are fine in moderation, make sure that your child brushes her teeth immediately after indulging in these sugary treats. Otherwise, her teeth will remain coated with sugar, providing the bacteria in her mouth with plenty of fuel. Additionally, if your child chews gum, make sure it’s a sugar-free variety.
- Be mindful of medicines. When you think of things that cause tooth decay in children, you likely don’t consider medications. But certain medicines can lead to tooth decay, particularly those containing sugar; cough syrups are a prime example. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should avoid these types of medications, particularly if they were prescribed or recommended by your child’s doctor. Instead, simply make sure your child brushes his teeth immediately after taking medications.
Remember: positive oral health habits are picked up early on in life. In addition to following the above nutritional tips, encourage your child to brush his teeth twice each day and floss daily. Using a fluoride mouthwash is also recommended. Finally, make sure that your child visits the dentist twice a year for check-ups and professional cleanings. For more tips on encouraging excellent oral health and hygiene in your child, contact us today!