A Healthy Diet
We all know that a well-balanced, nutritious diet is important for a child's growth and development. In addition, it plays a major role in a child's oral health. Children need a balanced nutritious diet so that their teeth develop properly and are strong and decay-resistant. Eating patterns and food choices are important factors that affect how quickly tooth decay develops and can also put your child at risk for serious ailments, such as diabetes and osteoporosis, later in life.
Foods high in sugars and starches increase the production of acids that can erode and weaken the tooth's outer layer (enamel). Eventually, these acids can cause tooth decay. Maintain a well-balanced diet by following Canada's Food Guide. The Food Guide stresses the importance of reading Nutrition facts on labels and choosing products that contain less fat, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium.
Diet and oral care tips
- Limit consumption of food and beverages that contribute to poor oral health.
- Eat sweets at mealtime, not as a snack, the increased flow of saliva during a meal helps protect the teeth by washing away and diluting sugar.
- If sugar is the first ingredient listed on a product label, you know that there is more sugar than anything else. Other sugars to look for include: corn syrup, corn sweeteners, dextrose, fructose, glucose, honey, maple syrup, molasses and sucrose.
- Check to see if liquid medicines (such as cough syrup) contain sugar. Ask the doctor or pharmacist for sugar-free medicines.
- Give your child water to drink between meals.
- Prepare food in healthy ways, such as steaming, sautéing, poaching or baking. Avoid fried food and limit salt intake.
- Brush your child's teeth twice a day for at least two minutes with a soft toothbrush; clean or floss between teeth and gums once a day; clean or
scrape the tongue daily.
- Delay brushing for at least an hour after consuming acidic food or beverages. Because acid softens the tooth's surface, brushing will cause more enamel loss. Instead, have your child rinse with water to help wash away and neutralize acids.
- Visit a dental hygienist for regular professional cleaning, customized home care and to discuss nutrition and healthy food choices.
Healthy nutritious snacks are good for the teeth, gums and general health. A variety of snacks and drinks low in sugar and high in nutrition are best. Depending on the child's age, some suggestions include:
- Bagel with peanut butter, cheese, tuna or salmon salad
- Vegetables and dip
- Cottage cheese and fruit
- Egg roll, samosa, bean burrito
- Hard-boiled egg
- Popcorn sprinkled with Parmesan cheese
- Cold pizza slices
- Whole grain crackers topped with nut butter, cheese, hummus or baba ghanouj
- Water to quench thirst between meals. Limit consumption of fruit juices.
Food & beverages high in sugar
Sugar is one of the main causes of oral health problems. Some food choices are more harmful than others. Therefore, practise moderation when consuming the following:
- Chewy, sticky foods – Raisins, granola bars, jellybeans,caramel and honey stick to teeth.
- Sugary snacks – Candy, regular gum, cookies, cakes or other sweet treats contain a high amount of cavity-causing sugar.
- Fruit drinks – These tend to be high in sugar and acid that can damage tooth enamel and lead to decay.
- Sports/energy drinks – These drinks are acidic and high in sugar.
- Acidic food and beverages – Acids that cause dental erosion are found in numerous food and drinks such as fruit juices, ice tea, lemons, pickles, and salad dressing.