Getting your kids to eat a healthy diet that is rich in leafy greens and low in added sugars is a struggle most parents have every time the dinner bell chimes. It often seems like the only foods that children are interested in eating consist entirely of ingredients you’d need a doctorate to pronounce properly.
Now, parents know that the foods they eat affect their smiles but kids might not be so knowledgeable about the latest research in dentistry. But, speaking from experience, we know that kids would be less inclined to eat sugary foods if they knew that those unhealthy snacks brought them closer to braces with every bite.
The good news for our children, however, is that there are more foods and beverages that brighten smiles than there are snacks that dampen them. Get plenty of these foods that are good for oral health into your child’s diet and watch them chew and smile—maybe after they’ve flossed.
Fruits and Vegetables
Unless the fruits are dipped in chocolate and the vegetables are smothered in cheese, your kids probably aren’t interested in anything that grew on a tree or in a bush. But, even if they have to plug their little noses, kids need fruits and vegetables.
- Apples and Pears
Apples and pears are rich in vitamins and minerals that are essential to maintaining oral and dental health. Both of these fruits are loaded with vitamins C and K and minerals such as riboflavin and thiamin that your body needs for healthy circulation and healthier smiles. Additionally, these fibrous fruits have the added benefit of removing plaque from teeth… but you’ll still need to brush and floss to remove food particles.
- Citrus Fruits
Any parent who has read about the negative effects of acidic foods on tooth enamel probably tries to keep the lemon wedges away from their child’s teeth. While citrus fruit are, definitely, acidic and we don’t recommend sucking on lemon wedges, citrus fruits are super fruits for young smiles. Oranges and tangerines, for example, have tons of calcium that dairy-weary kids might not get elsewhere.
- Dark, Leafy and Crunchy Greens
Vegetables such as carrots, celery, spinach, kale and the much-maligned broccoli are nature’s natural teeth whiteners. These vegetables are rich in all kinds of vitamins and minerals that teeth need to shine brightly and much like apples and pears, they remove plaque from teeth.
You’ve probably been hearing, ever since you were, yourself, a child, that you need calcium to build strong bones. Even though teeth are not, strictly technically speaking, bones, you also need calcium to build strong teeth. Fortunately, dairy products are high in calcium and vitamins. They’re also delicious—the nutritious part is just an added benefit.
Cheese isn’t just high in calcium, it’s also full of proteins that your teeth need to build enamel and dentin. Along with yogurt and milk, cheese also increases the production of saliva which is crucial for washing away bad bacteria and remineralizing tooth enamel.
We’ve talked a lot about vitamins and minerals but yogurt brings something else to the smile party. Rich in probiotics, yogurt helps to reduce bad bacteria in the mouth and wards off gingivitis, gum disease and even bad breath. Yogurt also rebalances your mouth’s pH level, further reducing the presence of bad bacteria… and bad breath.
Most of the harmful sugars that your child is consuming probably come from the processed fruit juices and soda drinks they guzzle like Hummers at a gas station. But there are some beverages that can brighten their smile.
Nothing beats water when it comes to a healthy smile. Drinking water washes away harmful bacteria and loosens food particles in the mouth. It’s also just plain refreshing on a hot summer day. Staying hydrated increases saliva production and reduces the risk of developing gum diseases. If regular old water is too boring for your child, try to make it more exciting with fruit-flavoured ice cubes and a stick of cinnamon—it’s the perfect kiddy cocktail!
Both black tea and green tea have strong antimicrobial properties that are great for oral health. Needless to say, for your children you’ll want to go with the caffeine-free options—unless you want to play “tea party” well into the wee hours of the morning.
- Natural Fruit Juices
You can squeeze most of the vitamins and minerals found in fruits into a tall glass of pure, no sugar added, natural fruit juice. For kids that squeamish about textures or picky about vegetables, fresh, cold-pressed fruit juices are a nifty way to mask things they don’t like and give them the things they need.
Try the Treehouse Dental Diet
Even we adults sneak in a chocolate bar or two—or three—on occasion so it’s perfectly understandable that kids would as well. While diet is important for oral and dental health, nothing is more important than regular brushing and flossing and trips to dentist’s office. Learn more about our pediatric dentistry services and try the Treehouse Dental diet.