Smart Eating Strategies For a Healthy Smile
Most children learn at an early age that brushing and flossing are essential for a healthy smile, however the foods and beverages that they eat may be just as important. Certain foods, especially those with added sugars such as candy and soda, can contribute to tooth decay. When these foods are left on the teeth, the bacteria that live in our mouth digest the sugar and create acids which can eat away at teeth and lead to cavities. To ensure your child stays cavity-free, follow these smart eating strategies:
-Think your child’s drink: Limit beverages that are high in sugar and low in nutrients such as soda and fruit drinks. Instead serve your child 100% fruit juice, milk or water. When it comes to juice, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting daily intake to 4-6 oz. for children 1 to 6 years old and 8-12 oz. for children 7 to 18 years old.
-Say cheese: Cheeses like Cheddar, Mozzarella, Swiss and American have been shown to protect teeth from cavities by lowering the mouth’s acid levels.
-No bottles at bedtime: Never put children to bed with a bottle or sippy cup filled with milk, juice or other sweetened beverages. This can put your child at risk for tooth decay by bathing their teeth in acid overnight. Instead give your child only water at bedtime.
-Limit between meal snacking: Frequent snacking or sipping on sugar-containing foods and beverages can lead to tooth decay because it repeatedly exposes teeth to acid attacks. If you are going to serve your child a sweet treat, it is better to serve it with a meal rather than as a separate snack. This is because the flow of saliva is greatest during meals which can help weaken cavity-causing acids and rinse food particles from the mouth.
-Snack smart: Serve your child healthy snacks like cheese sticks, fruits and vegetables or yogurt. Make sure to limit sticky snacks and treats like jelly beans or hard candy which can stick to teeth longer than non-sticky snacks extending the amount of time they are exposed to cavity causing acids.
-Practice MyPlate: A balanced diet is important for promoting both overall health and dental health. At meals and snacks serve your child nutrient-rich foods from each of the 5 food groups including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods and lean meats.