Good Diet

A child’s general level of health often dictates his or her oral health, and vice versa.  Therefore, supplying children with a well-balanced diet is more likely to produce healthier teeth and gums. A good diet provides the child with the many different nutrients he or she needs to grow. These nutrients are necessary for gum tissue development, strong bones, and protection against certain illnesses.

According to the food pyramid, 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?

Diet plays a significant role in oral health. The foods and beverages we consume can either contribute to a healthy mouth or increase the risk of oral health problems. Here are some ways diet can affect oral health:

  1. Tooth decay: Consuming sugary and acidic foods and drinks, such as candies, sodas, and juices, can increase the risk of tooth decay. The bacteria in the mouth feed on sugars and produce acids that attack the tooth enamel.

  2. Gum disease: A diet lacking in essential nutrients can weaken the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight gum infections. Additionally, poor nutrition can contribute to gum inflammation and slower healing of gum tissues.

  3. Tooth erosion: Consuming acidic foods and drinks, like citrus fruits, vinegar, and carbonated beverages, can erode the tooth enamel over time. This can lead to tooth sensitivity, discoloration, and increased risk of cavities.

  4. Oral cancer: Certain dietary factors, such as tobacco and alcohol consumption, can increase the risk of oral cancer. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, provides antioxidants that help protect against cell damage and reduce the risk of oral cancer.

  5. Saliva production: Chewing on crunchy and fibrous foods, like apples and carrots, stimulates saliva production, which helps neutralize acids in the mouth and wash away food particles, reducing the risk of cavities.

How can I alter my child’s diet?

The pediatric dentist is able to offer advice and dietary counseling for children and parents.  Most often, parents are advised to opt for healthier snacks, for example, carrot sticks, reduced fat yoghurt, and cottage cheese.  In addition, pediatric dentists may recommend a fluoride supplement to protect tooth enamel – especially if the child lives in an area where fluoride is not routinely added to community water.

Parents should also 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.  It is also impractical to try to clean the teeth after every snack, if “every snack” means every ten minutes!

Finally, parents are advised to opt for faster snacks.  Mints and hard candies remain in the mouth for a long period of time - meaning that sugar is coating the teeth for longer.  If candy is necessary, opt for a sugar-free variety or a variety that can be eaten expediently.

Should my child eat starch-rich foods?

It is important for the child to eat 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 (when saliva production is higher), than as a standalone snack.  Provide plenty of water at mealtimes (rather than soda) to help the child rinse sugary food particles off the teeth.

As a final dietary note, avoid feeding your child sticky foods if possible.  It is incredibly difficult to remove stickiness from the teeth - especially in younger children who tend not to be as patient during brushing.

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s general or oral health, please contact our office.

Contact Us.We encourage you to contact us with any questions or comments you may have. Please call our office or use the quick contact form.

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We encourage you to contact us with any questions or comments you may have. Please call our office or use the quick contact form below.