Oral Health DietLutz, FL
When it comes to raising children, the phrase “You are what you eat,” may be a common one at a dinner table with picky eaters. We live in a time where there is more variety of available food than ever before from Italian or Spanish cuisine to hamburgers and junk food. Even with the methods of compromising at least one bite of certain foods, parents may struggle with children refusing to eat certain foods.
However, it is crucial that parents do not give into their children’s attitude. Foods high in sugar can cause massive damage to a child’s teeth without proper care. The process of decay can cause permanent damage that will heavily hinder the growth of the child’s adult teeth. Fortunately, we can help provide professional care and advice on specific foods that will help a child’s teeth remain healthy.
UNDERSTANDING TOOTH DECAY
The teeth consist of layers, with the outer layer being the enamel. The enamel is like a protective shield around the dentin, middle layer of the tooth, and the dental pulp, the inner-most layer that contains the nerves. Tooth decay is the erosion or destruction of the enamel due to plaque remaining on the teeth. Plaque forms when food particles and drinks containing sugars buildup on the teeth.
The plaque is sticky enough to keep bacteria on the surface of the teeth and slowly break the enamel down. Fortunately, children just need to keep up proper treatment and regular dental visits to prevent the decay. The truth is that even with professional checkups and oral hygiene, the food a child consumes can worsen the decay. Thus, parents need to help children eat healthier foods to keep their teeth in good shape. Here are a few foods that children need to avoid:
- Hard candies (such as lollipops)
- Ice that the child chews
- Too much citrus
- Coffee with added sugar
- Sticky foods (fruit snacks, taffy, dried fruit)
- Potato chips
- Sports drinks
FOODS THAT HELP TEETH
Here are several foods that can help strengthen the enamel and keep teeth healthy. As with any food, children need to brush and floss regularly to keep the teeth clean and prevent plaque from forming.
It can be a tricky food to figure out which fruit is truly healthy for a child’s teeth and what is not. For instance, citrus fruits (pineapple, oranges, lemons, lime, grapefruit, etc.) are high in acid that can corrode teeth. In single servings, citrus fruit will not be too bad. However, in excess, the fruit can damage teeth.
Thus, one fruit that can be beneficial for the teeth is apples. By eating apples, the child will be helping to clean plaque off of the teeth and re-mineralize them. However, eating only fruit will not be as beneficial for a child’s health as eating a balanced diet.
Green and leafy vegetables act as an excellent source of iron and can provide necessary antioxidants. A vegetable such as spinach also has beta-carotene that is important for keeping the enamel strong. We understand that it can be difficult to get children to eat vegetables so including the veggies with certain dips or other items is not the worst case scenario.
While they are not leafy or the same dark shade of green, carrots and celery will have a similar beneficial effect on the teeth as apples. One option is to offer up celery with some cheese or peanut butter as a snack for children.
Low-fat or fat-free dairy products such as milk or yogurt can have a positive effect on the teeth. While it is easier to include dairy products into meals that children will eat, it is important to monitor portion sizes and not give the child too much dairy. It is also important to note that products such as ice cream contain dairy and a lot of sugar, not making it as much of a benefit on the teeth as other dairy products.
Lean proteins such as poultry, fish, and certain types of beef can contain phosphorus to help strengthen the teeth. For instance, the Omega-3 fatty acids in fish can provide vitamin D to strengthen the jaw and teeth bones. However, make sure it is lean meat and preferably, without the skin.
One way to help children get a healthy amount of protein is to incorporate the protein into other dishes such as with pasta, salad or as a sandwich.
While it sounds obvious, water is one of the healthiest drinks a child can consume. Water not only quenches one’s thirst, but it also contains fluoride when it comes from the tap, to help strengthen teeth against acid. Water is one of the few drinks with no extra chemicals or sugars that will harm teeth. So make sure to have a child drink plenty of water each day.
If you would like to learn more about oral health diet and the various treatments we provide, call (813) 518-0641 to schedule a consultation.
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