We all know that a good oral hygiene routine, like flossing and brushing, is key to maintaining the health of your child’s teeth and gums. An often overlooked factor of oral health, however, is diet and nutrition. Listen, we know how hard it can be to get your kids to eat healthy meals consistently. Kids will be kids, after all!
But being knowledgeable about the foods that can cause cavities and infections can mean a lot in the battle to keep your child’s teeth pearly white, and more importantly, healthy and cavity-free.
Here are a few tips to that will help make your child’s dental visits short and *sweet*:
The first step in preventing unnecessary tooth decay is giving your child meals that are rich in the nutrients that keep their little bodies healthy. That’s right — those five food groups are back again! A diet full of fruits and veggies, grains, dairy, fish, nuts, meat and eggs will help keep your little one’s teeth (and bones and muscles!) strong.
Ok, ok… we are parents, too, and we know how aspirations are sometimes quite different than reality. Getting your child to eat certain food groups can sometimes feel like you’re negotiating a high-stakes war-ending treaty. One idea we love is to give meals to your child and ask him or her to take a bite of each item on the plate, giving it a grade of A, B, C, D, or F. When healthy foods get good grades, serve them more often. Involving your little one in decision making will get them more excited to eat nutritious foods.
Refined sugars in many processed foods like candy, chips, and other snacks are a major villain when it comes to tooth decay. Simply monitor the availability and frequency of these types of products in your home. Chips, cookies and the like should be viewed as treats and not regular staples in a diet. Fruits are an excellent snack option for kids — they’re sweet and easy to leave out on the counter for quick munching.
1. When possible, avoid sugary beverages like soda, juice, and chocolate milk. The occasional sweet drink is ok, but avoid giving them to your child as a go-to. For example, after sporting events, always give your child water, not a sugary sports drink. Reinforcing habits like this at a young age will positively affect their diet choices (and oral health!) later in life.
2. Offer water to your child during and after every meal and snack. Water helps rinse away the sugar that sticks to teeth.
3. Encourage brushing and flossing twice per day — and do this yourself to set an example. If your child is too young to take care of their own teeth, brush their teeth twice a day and floss at least once a day to remove sugar that has stuck to the teeth and gums. After flossing and brushing in the evening, make sure your child doesn’t eat or drink anything sugary.
4. When your child does enjoy the occasional treat, have them brush their teeth immediately afterward. For example, when they get home from a birthday party where they had cake and soda, brushing right away will prevent the sugar from sticking around and causing decay.
5. Avoid sticky foods as much as possible. Treats like caramel or dried fruit cling to the teeth and feed the harmful bacteria that cause cavities. When your child does indulge, remind them to brush their teeth shortly thereafter.
Following these nutrition guidelines will go a long way in preventing painful tooth decay and long, uncomfortable dental visits. We love seeing your child — but don’t want it to be because they have a cavity or infection! If you have questions about the health of your child’s teeth, please don’t hesitate to ask us during your next visit to our office.