We all know that too many carbohydrates, particularly those that are high in sugar content, such as cakes, cookies, candy, and snack foods, are tough on teeth. Acids, such as those in juice, juice drinks and soda, can wreak havoc on a healthy child’s dental enamel. We also know that kids are exposed to a variety of foods and beverages on a daily basis that may not be in the best interest of their dental and general health.
Here are some suggestions to help your child develop more nourishing eating habits and to learn about foods that protect their teeth for a lifetime of beautiful, healthy smiles!
The Best Fruits and Veggies for Healthy Teeth
While fresh fruits and veggies, such as apples, pears, melon, celery and cucumbers, are excellent choices for healthy teeth, kids are often attracted to dried fruits, such as raisins and cranberries, and bananas, all of which are high in sugar. Dried fruits and snacks like chewy granola bars, jelly beans and similar candies have a second-tier effect on teeth: because they are sticky, they remain on the teeth long after the food has been consumed, eating away at the enamel and joining forces with bacteria to cause cavities.
Best Proteins for Healthy Teeth
Cheeses, particularly aged cheese, such as cheddar or Swiss, trigger the flow of saliva, which helps wash food particles away from your child’s teeth.
Have Your Child Brush After Consuming These
- Sticky, chewy foods like dried fruit, granola bars, fruit leather
- All candy, but particularly jelly beans, gummies, caramel, jujubes and lollipops
- Snack foods: potato/corn chips, pretzels—even bread contains lots of sugar
- Soda and fruit juice
- Cough drops, cough and/or cold medicine
- Gummy vitamins or medications
- Citrus fruits: oranges, limes, lemons, grapefruit
- Popcorn: the kernels can stick between teeth, causing irritation
Tips for A Lifetime of Healthy Teeth
- Don’t teach your kids to snack! Snacking is a learned habit, and frequent snacking exposes teeth to a constant flow of sugars that combine with bacteria to create cavities.
- If you must snack, focus on nuts and veggies.
- Schedule “Candy Day” one day every week during which your child can have unlimited candy. A friend of our family had Candy Day every Saturday. Sounds crazy, but think about it: how much candy can a child actually eat in a single day? I guarantee they’ll eat less in a single day than over the course of a week, and your children will grow up knowing that candy and sweets aren’t eaten on a daily basis!
- Replace soda, fruit juice and juice boxes with water. Soda has no value, and juice has little going for it other than its fluid content. Sodas and juices are tooth-destroying combinations of acids and sugars. Serve whole fruit and eliminate juice and soda (even diet soda) for healthier teeth.
- Never put a baby to bed with a bottle containing anything other than water.
- Serve high-calcium foods like broccoli, edamame, white beans, and almonds are packed with calcium. Non-vegetarians can increase their calcium load with wild caught salmon, yogurt/kefir, and cottage cheese, as well as cheddar and Swiss cheeses.
- When your child is allowed sweets, serve them immediately after a meal, at which time saliva production is highest.
- If your child chews gum, select one with Xylitol, which has been proven to reduce the level of bacterial in the mouth. Chewing gum also increases saliva.
- Brush and floss your child’s teeth AM and PM and after snacks. Use fluoride-containing toothpaste only after the age of 2.
- Brush after giving your child any medication, including cough drops.
- Replace toothbrushes every 3 months and after every illness.
- Bring your child to our Manhattan pediatric dentist office twice a year.
Your children’s dental health is of the highest concern to me and my staff at IsmileKids in Manhattan. Pediatric dental care extends to good general health and a sense of well being, something all of us—including moms and dads—need! Call us at 212-267-0029.