Not surprisingly, the food we eat can have a positive or negative effect on our dental health — and not just in the way they stick to teeth, or how sugary or acidic they can be. Kids need to grow up knowing the right foods to eat to maintain a healthy bite and smile but also for their general health.
Your plate at mealtime
The nutritional guidelines from the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (see MyPlate) tell us to have fruits and vegetables covering half the plate. This helps with digestion, fills you up with micronutrients and provides “roughage” from fruit and vegetables to help scrape and naturally cleanse your teeth as you bite or chew.
Whole grains, which are chock full of vitamins and minerals for bone density and healthy digestion, should be the next largest part of your diet. Low-fat and fat-free dairy, fortified with calcium and vitamins, are also recommended. For protein, choose lean meats and it is recommended that we eat at least 8 ounces of seafood every week for essential omega-3 fatty acids for your heart and organs.
If you need to snack – and most growing kids do and will – choose healthy items like cheese and nuts. Avoid sweets and potato chips that promote tooth decay and add on useless calories.
Be careful with acidic foods
Citrus fruits and vegetables, like tomatoes – along with ketchup and sauces – are nutritious, but they can do serious damage to teeth due to their acid content. While they make convenient snacks, it is definitely best to consume them with meals to offset some of that acid. Dr. AJ says, “It is also very smart to swish your mouth with water if the opportunity to brush isn’t there to help neutralize acids, especially when orthodontic appliances are on the teeth.”
Choose whole fruit over juice. If you do drink juice, drink it quickly in one sitting as opposed to sipping over longer periods. Again, rinse your mouth afterwards with water.
Sugar-alternatives for the sweet tooth
Xylitol is a healthier sweetener that has cavity-preventing properties. Other sugar substitutes sweeten, like sugar, but have less cavity-causing acids. Look for the ADA seal in gums and sugar substitute brands.
Brush, floss, and visit the dentist
In the end, no matter how well you eat, your teeth depend on proper dental hygiene. Brush at least two times per day, floss at least once per day, and visit your dentist for checkups and a tooth cleaning every 6 months. Many patients are ideal candidates for dental sealants to seal hard to clean areas from dangerous bacteria and our pediatric dentists are happy to discuss this option with you at your next visit.
About Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan, the offices of Drs. Plunkett, Ralstrom, Makowski, Thanasas, Ker, and Associates
Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan have specialized in pediatric dentistry and orthodontics since 1968. Our family-friendly and newly renovated office gives patients and families a more comfortable and consistent experience with dentistry from the very beginning. Our pediatric dentists treat children from newborn to 18 years of age while our orthodontists provide care for both children and adults and are proud to be Premier Providers of Invisalign and Invisalign Teen services. The ability to treat all patients with compassion and individuality, including those that may have special needs reaches beyond our facility, which has treatment rooms available for children who require additional privacy and customized care options. We pioneered valued hospital affiliations to allow dental services to be performed at DMC Children’s Hospital and St. John Macomb Hospital, when appropriate or necessary, and our specialists are also proud to be on staff at Henry Ford and Beaumont hospitals.