You Asked: How Can I Get My Child to Eat Tooth-Healthy Foods?
We get this question all the time! When trying to find tooth-healthy foods kids will love, it’s good to have lots of options. Kids can be picky, and sometimes what they liked last week will turn into something they won’t eat next week. So, having a variety of healthy foods to choose from may be a good plan.
What makes a food healthy for your teeth?
Foods that are naturally low in sugar are generally the healthiest for your teeth. That’s because the invisible bacteria in your mouth that cause tooth decay love sugar! The sugar from foods accumulates on teeth and contributes to the developing plaque on a tooth. Plaque is the sticky, colorless film of bacteria that constantly forms on our teeth and along the gum line. Plaque contains bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease. The bacteria in the dental plaque feast on the sugar your kids eat, these bacteria produce acid that can lead to tooth decay if not brushed regularly. In time, that acid will begin to dissolve the enamel on teeth leading to cavities and other dental concerns.
So, the first step in helping to prevent tooth decay is having a healthy diet. Limiting sugary snacks and treats is not only good for your child’s teeth, it can also be an important aspect of maintaining a healthy lifestyle for your child’s overall health!
Tooth-Healthy Foods Kids Love!
Ok, we can’t say for sure if EVERY kid will love ALL the foods listed here, but we bet you can find something that puts a smile on your kids’ faces!
Encourage your child to drink water throughout the day! Not only does it help rinse their mouths after eating to remove leftover food pieces that could lead to decay, but water will keep saliva levels high and helps neutralize the acidic properties of foods, beverages that you child may have consumed during the day.
Natural fruits can make excellent and healthy snacks for your child. Fruit contains vitamins and minerals that a child needs to help grow strong and healthy. We must also be aware that natural fruits also contain a large amount of natural sugar, so we recommend you ensure your child brushes regularly throughout the day when consuming fruit. Some healthy fruit choices include:
- Canned fruit in their own juices
Sometimes getting kids to eat their vegetables can be a challenge! Vegetables are healthy snacks that are also important to a child’s growth and development. Try sneaking healthy veggies in anywhere you can. For snacking, veggies can especially be a healthy part of your child’s diet, crunching on raw veggies can help to naturally clean your kids’ teeth and gums. Some healthy veggies to try include:
- Green beans
- Sweet potatoes
- Unsweetened vegetable juices
Milk, cheese and yogurt
Milk, cheese and yogurt help to lower the acid levels (pH) in your child’s mouth and this can help reduce tooth decay. These products can also be good sources of other important vitamins and minerals such as calcium and vitamin D which are important for healthy teeth and bones!
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds tend to be healthy snacks as well – we recommend you avoid the types of nuts continuing added sugars or flavors. The natural fats in nuts and seeds have the added benefit of helping to protect teeth from harmful bacteria. They also have important tooth-healthy nutrients like calcium and phosphorus. Try almonds or cashews. Never give your child a food product they are allergic to.
Avoid food and drinks that are unhealthy for your teeth
Just as important as giving your kids tooth-healthy foods, you should be sure to limit or avoid these foods:
- Snacks with added sugar
Carefully read the labels on snacks. When you see words such as corn syrup and fructose that’s your clue that you may want to limit or avoid those treats.
- Fruit juices
Even though fruit juices do have some nutritional value, they may also be high in calories and have lots of added sugar.
- Soda and sport drinks
We do not recommend sodas or sports drinks for kids as they tend to be very high in sugar and possibly high in caffeine too. These products can do a lot of damage to teeth because of the sugar content they contain.
- Gooey or chewy foods
Fruit leather and fruit snacks may have fruit in their name, but they have lots of added sugar, and they tend to stick to teeth – prolonging the time your child’s teeth are exposed to sugar! Chewy, sticky candy, gummies or fruit snacks can stick to teeth and increase the rate of dental decay or cavities.
- Chips, cookies and cakes
Processed chips and crackers can be high in sugar and should be limited. Cookies and cakes have an increased amount of sugar and may be best saved for a special treat due to the amount of sugar they contain. Exposure to these snacks should be limited and oral hygiene should be closely supervised by parent or responsible adult.
Some helpful tips on snacking and kids. Be sure your children are not snacking “at will” throughout the day. It may be best for parents to establish set times for eating and snacking, because the mouth needs time in between eating to neutralize the acids that cause tooth decay. Encourage water between meals. Water is helpful in reducing the acidity of the mouth. When your child does eat sweets, it’s best to have them after a main meal. And, don’t forget to have them brush! Consult your dentist to identify the best foods for your child. Find a dentist now.