You are what you eat.
Most of us have heard this phrase before, but it’s really true! Your child’s diet contributes greatly to their physical health and to their oral health as well. Dietary needs will vary as children move through different stages of growth, but have no doubt–foods that are good for your child’s body are also good for their teeth.
So, let’s take a moment to digest (pun intended) some ways that you can help your child get the nutrition they need for healthy growth and development, including their teeth.
Use MyPlate to plan meals
The MyPlate tool provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is an excellent source of dietary guidelines for all ages. Use this interactive tool to plan meals that ensure your family is getting the right amount of all five major food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and dairy).
Strong bones = stronger smiles
Strong bones not only prevent fractures and other injuries, but they also support your child’s teeth–and stronger teeth help kids prevent tooth decay, cavities, gum disease, and other oral health issues.
Foods that are rich in vitamins (especially calcium) and protein are the building blocks for healthy bone growth and should be eaten daily. These include meats, poultry, dairy products, green leafy vegetables, and fresh fruits.
Unfortunately, too many children in the U.S. do not get enough calcium in their daily diet. The recommended amount of calcium varies by age, requiring more as kids get older:
- Age one to three: 700 mg each day
- Age four to eight: 1,000 mg each day
- Age nine to 18: 1,300 mg each day
Of course, dairy products–such as milk, cheese, and yogurt–are great sources of calcium. If your child is lactose-intolerant, many dairy products are now available in lactose-free versions that are still rich in calcium. Your child can also get calcium from non-dairy foods like broccoli and beans.
Have healthy snacks on hand
Kids often have a habit of grabbing sugary foods and drinks when they snack. Sugar is notorious for creating cavities, so it’s a good idea to always have healthy snack options on hand after school or between meals. When possible, avoid sweets, starchy snacks (such as potato chips or crackers), and sticky treats (such as “fruit” snacks, raisins, or granola bars).
Some healthy snack ideas include:
- Celery or cucumber slices served with hummus dip (bonus: both celery and cucumber contain a high volume of water)
- Sliced apples served with peanut butter for extra protein
- Tubes or cups of low-sugar yogurt
- Cubed, sliced, or stick cheese (fun fact: cheese triggers the flow of saliva, which helps wash food particles away from teeth)
Speaking of saliva
If you plan to give your child any sugary treats, give them as dessert immediately after mealtime rather than as a snack. Why? There’s usually an increased amount of saliva in the mouth at mealtime, making it easier to wash sugary food particles away from teeth.
Certain sugary treats like lollipops and hard candies continuously coat the teeth with sugar, contributing to tooth decay. Sweets that linger on the teeth should always be avoided, even after mealtime.
Stay focused on what your child sips
Staying hydrated is critical to our overall health. By age six, all kids should try to drink at least eight glasses of water per day.
Other than water, anything that your child sips on throughout the day (or night) can cause cavities, including soda, juice, sports drinks, lemonade, and chocolate, strawberry, or white milk. Many of these sugary beverages, especially soda, can speed up dehydration as well.
The sugar content in soda combines with bacteria in your child’s mouth to form acid, which attacks their teeth. Even diet or sugar-free soda contains acid–so it’s best to avoid soda if possible.
When in doubt, water is always the best choice! For extra calcium, you can encourage your child to drink white milk at meals and water between meals.
Set a positive example
Your child will value their health and their teeth the same way that you value yours. They are also likely to eat and drink whatever is available to them at home. You can set a positive example by providing healthy foods and encouraging good oral hygiene habits.
When it’s time to visit the dentist, focus on the positives! We want Southmoor Pediatric Dentistry to be a happy place for your child–we’ll do everything we can to help them (and you) feel relaxed and cared for when you’re with us.
Schedule your appointment today
From diet recommendations to dental habits, the team at Southmoor Pediatric Dentistry is here to meet your child’s oral health needs. A big part of our patient-centered approach is partnering with you to give your child the best possible chance for a lifetime of healthy smiles. We’re totally in this together!
To schedule an appointment, contact Southmoor Pediatric Dentistry today.