Our school aged kids may not want to contemplate the arrival of a new school year during summer vacation. However, parents know from experience that the first day of school will be here before we know it. Now is the time to start thinking about healthy snacks and lunch items that are not only good for your child’s body, but also their teeth.
What You Eat Affects Your Teeth
Your mouth is home to billions of tiny bacteria. While some of these bacteria help us break down food for easier digestion, others produce acid that eats away the enamel of our teeth. These bacteria thrive on sugar.
The bacteria eventually form a thin film on your teeth and gums known as plaque. Without proper brushing and flossing, plaque hardens into tartar. This can lead to cavities, bad breath, gum disease, and tooth decay.
The Best Foods for Teeth and Gums
Instead of feeding the bad bacteria, why not provide foods and beverages that prevent and remove plaque? These include:
Water – water is the best beverage your child can drink for healthy teeth and gums. It washes away harmful bacteria and dilutes acid in the mouth. If your community provides a clean, reliable water source, opt for tap water rather than bottled water. Many municipal water sources have added fluoride and minerals, which help build stronger teeth.
Dairy products – cheese, yogurt and milk contain calcium, one of the major components of the protective outer layer of our teeth known as enamel. Be sure to avoid yogurt with a lot of added sugar.
Raw fruits and vegetables – crunchy fruits and vegetables including carrots, celery and apples remove plaque from the surface of teeth.
Nuts – just as with fruits and veggies, nuts are slightly abrasive and help remove plaque from teeth. They are also loaded with calcium.
Green tea – unsweetened tea contains antioxidants which kill bacteria. Green tea doesn’t tend to stain teeth like black tea. Green tea also contains fluoride for strong teeth.
Sugar free candy – yes, candy can be good for your teeth if it’s sugar free. It stimulates saliva production, which helps eliminate bacteria.
Foods to Avoid
Naturally, some foods are worse than others when it comes to your child’s teeth. Limit your child’s intake of these foods and be sure to have them brush and floss shortly after consuming them.
Sweets – While all sugar is bad for your teeth, hard candy that slowly dissolves in your mouth or treats, such as cookies that can get stuck in the crevices of your teeth are the worst.
Sodas – even sugar-free soft drinks are bad. The acid they contain wears away enamel. Dark colored sodas can also stain teeth.
Citrus fruits – citrus fruits are part of a healthy diet and fine in moderation. However, they contain acid. Too much citrus can damage tooth enamel.
Sports drinks – these are usually loaded with sugar and carbohydrates, which convert into sugar.
Potato chips and crackers – starchy foods like these convert into sugar and can also get stuck in teeth.
Sticky foods – candy like taffy, caramels or jelly beans get stuck in the crevices of your mouth and cause further damage.
Healthier food choices keep your child’s teeth clean and strong. Studies have also shown that a healthy diet improves concentration and brain function, something all kids need once they are back in school. Start phasing the unhealthy snack foods now so your child will be prepared for better options in the fall.