The food your child eats, not only affects his or her health but their teeth as well. Too many sugars, starches and carbohydrates can cause tooth decay. Sugars are present in cakes, biscuits, lollies, soft drink, flavoured milk, while starches come from potato chips. How long carbohydrates stay on the teeth is one of the leading causes of tooth decay.
One of the best things you can do for your child is to teach them to make healthier food choices.
Here are some tips to help and some tooth-friendly foods that are great to serve.
- Fruits and vegetables – it’s a bit of a *no-brainer* isn’t it? Serve your child fresh fruit and vegetables instead of carbohydrates. Fruits such as pears, melons, cucumber and celery are the best as they contain a lot of water. Try and limit sultanas and bananas as they are full of concentrated sugar. While they are healthy, try and ensure your child brushes their teeth immediately after they have been eaten.
- Cheese – serve cheese with lunch or as a snack after school. Cheese such as cheddar and Swiss and other *aged* cheeses help trigger the flow of saliva – it’s saliva in your child’s mouth that will help wash food particles away from the teeth.
- Avoid chewy and sticky foods – sultanas, peanut butter, dried fruits, caramel, jelly beans etc stick to the teeth and that makes it harder for saliva to wash them away. If your child wants to eat these foods, again, ensure they brush their teeth immediately after eating.
- Serve any sugary treats with a meal – if you want to give your child a sweet, give it to them as a dessert following dinner. Around mealtimes, there is usually an increase in saliva which makes it easier to wash bacteria away from the teeth. The drink you serve with their meal will also help to wash away any food particles.
- Get your child into the habit of eating as few snacks as possible – It’s not how much sugar is consumed in one sitting, it’s the sugar constantly consumed throughout the day. It’s the time between meals that allows saliva the chance to wash away the food particles that bacteria would normally feast on. It’s constantly snacking without brushing afterwards that provides that continual fuel to feed the bacteria – this leads to plaque development and tooth decay. Try and limit snacks to no more than two a day and if possible, have your child brush their teeth immediately afterwards.
- Avoid those sugary treats that stay on the teeth – hard candies, mints, cough drops and lollipops continuously coat the teeth with sugar and all contribute to tooth decay
- Always offer your child plain water rather than juice, soft drink or flavoured milk – Juices, flavoured milk and soft drink all contain sugar. Plain water won’t harm the teeth and will actually help to wash away any food particles still clinging to the teeth
- Always include a good source of calcium in your child’s diet to help build strong teeth – good sources of calcium include, broccoli, yoghurt and milk.
- Buy sugar-free gum – if your child likes to chew gum, opt for sugar-free varieties
- Brush with a fluoride toothpaste – one of the best ways to prevent tooth decay is to use a toothpaste containing fluoride. The fluoride actually seeps inside the tooth to help reverse decay. Brush your child’s teeth twice a day and after each meal, or snack if possible. If you aren’t able to brush, have your child wash his or her mouth out instead.
- Floss your child’s teeth every day – flossing at least once a day helps remove particles trapped between teeth and just under the gum
- Rinse with a fluoride mouthwash – a fluoride mouthwash can help to prevent tooth decay but don’t use a mouthwash on children under 6.
- Brush your child’s teeth after giving him or her medicine – medicines especially cough syrups contain sugar and the bacteria in the mouth will use that to make the acids that eat away at the tooth enamel
- Visit the dentist regularly – dentist visits for children usually start at age one, or within 6 months of the first tooth breaking through. Getting regular dental check-ups will help catch any potential dental problems and may help prevent the *fear of the dentist* happening in later life.
- Don’t put baby to bed with a bottle of juice, milk, formula or soft drink
- Buy foods that are unsweetened or sugar-free
Besides all of these, parents should be careful about their children’s teeth by checking whether they have any oral problem. If they have any oral problem, prepare them for their dental check-up. To ensure proper dental health of kids, parents should be more vigilant.