The Ins and Outs of Children’s Diets: Tooth-Decay Causing Foods and Healthy Alternatives

Our Dental Blog | Child Dentistry | 09.16.2019

When we think of cavities and tooth decay, we automatically think of the lack of brushing and flossing, especially with kids who are still learning good oral hygiene habits. But did you know that no matter how much you get your kids to brush and floss they can still develop cavities and tooth decay?

That’s right — it all starts with what you put in your mouth. Maintaining good oral health in children starts with a healthy diet; for parents, this means watching what your kids eat to make sure that they get the nutrients they need, without damaging their teeth.

What’s in your child’s diet? Check out our list of foods that kids should avoid and healthy, teeth-friendly alternatives to swap them out with:

The No-No List: Foods that Harm Teeth

You’ll be surprised to know that even the most common snacks and drinks can cause cavities, tooth decay, and damage to the enamel.

  1. Hard candy

    As kids chew on hard candy and break them down, smaller bits can lodge themselves into the crevices of teeth. This allows cavity-causing bacteria to eat at the enamel and eventually lead to tooth decay. Plus, if your child is wearing braces, candy can easily stick onto wires and brackets, making them hard to clean and prolonging harmful contact with teeth.

  2. Starch-filled snacks

    Potato chips, crackers, and other starchy foods are a staple in children’s diets because they make for great snacks. Unfortunately, these can also get stuck in between teeth and on the surface. Combined with a lack of proper brushing, the starch feeds damage-causing bacteria and leads to tooth decay. If your kids eat these foods even on occasion, make sure that they brush and floss right after, or rinse their mouth with cool water to get rid of morsels.

  3. Sugary drinks

    Sugary drinks such as soft drinks or artificially sweetened fruit juice are the number one cause of tooth decay in children. Simply put, these shouldn’t be in children’s diets at all, not just because of possible tooth decay, but also because of their lack of nutritional value. Drinking sugary drinks — even the ones packaged as nutritional water or sports drinks — can increase kids’ exposure to sugar and acid that erode the enamel of the teeth. The result is long-term damage caused by cavities and tooth decay.

Double Up On Teeth-Friendly Snacks

Overhauling your child’s diet to include teeth-friendly food doesn’t mean eliminating everything they love. Instead, we’re here to help you swap out the bad ones for healthy alternatives:

  1. Fruits and Vegetables

    The fact is, many kids will pass on fruits and vegetables whenever they can, simply because they don’t taste as flavourful as their favourite snacks. But that doesn’t change the fact that these are still the most essential foods in their diet. Not only do they help to scrub bad bacteria out of the mouth, but the nutrients also contribute to good health overall.

    The trick is to find fruits and veggies that kids love — and start them young! This means developing healthy eating habits as early as possible, so they won’t be inclined to gorge on chips, candy, and soft drinks later on. When they’re used to getting a healthy dose of sugar from apples, kiwi, berries, carrots, and celery, they won’t be craving candy and chocolates as much.

  2. Nuts

    If your child loves the crunchy taste of chips, try swapping them out for a healthy alternative like nuts. Nuts are filling and provide the same texture as their favourite munchies, with the added benefit of being nutritious. They contain lots of calcium and vitamin D which promote strong and healthy teeth. Just make sure that your child brushes and flosses after eating them to avoid getting bits stuck in between teeth!

  3. Milk

    From day one, milk is a part of your child’s diet. It’s a great source of calcium that is essential to maintaining strong teeth, so make sure to keep your kids in the habit of drinking milk, or incorporating it in other food and drink, such as fruit smoothies.

  4. Water

    Hydration is key for a balanced diet, good health, and a beautiful smile! There’s no better drink than water to keep children (and adults!) hydrated. It cleans teeth by removing any lingering acids and leftover bits of food. Plus, it also washes away bacteria and sugar that can cause cavities. Lastly, water neutralizes the pH level inside the mouth, keeping acid levels at bay and preventing them from attacking healthy teeth.

Ask Your Child’s Dentist

A lot of people only book a visit to their dentist when they’re in an emergency such as a sudden toothache or an accident that causes trauma to the mouth or teeth. Unfortunately, this doesn’t just apply to adults. Often children will only see a dentist when they’re in desperate need, rather than on a routine basis for check-ups and cleanings.

At a minimum, it’s best to take kids to see a children’s dentist twice a year for a checkup and professional dental cleaning. Based on their dental history and possible risk factors, your child’s dentist may recommend additional visits to provide better protection for primary teeth and ensure the healthy growth of permanent ones throughout childhood. During these checkups, dentists can give you advice about your child’s diet, to make sure that whatever they’re eating supports all their efforts to brush and floss properly.

To learn more about healthy, teeth-friendly food and drink to include in children’s diets, call Treehouse Dental Care at 1-833-333-6623 or contact us here.

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