When it comes to keeping your toddler’s teeth healthy, eating the right things is a huge part of the equation. Bacteria that live in the mouth thrive on sugar. When they process this sugar, it produces acid that is damaging to the teeth. Keeping your child’s diet in check will help to keep the bacteria in check.
What to Eat
Keeping the teeth flushed clean with water or saliva prevents sugar and bacteria from building up. Foods that are high in fiber, like crunchy vegetables and fruit, take longer to chew, which builds up saliva, and help to scrub the teeth clean a little. Apples, celery, and other crunchy fruits and veggies also have a high sugar to water content, which can help to dilute the sugars.
When snacking in between meals, when it’s less likely that teeth will be brushed after, dairy is always a good choice. Foods like yogurt, milk and cheese neutralize the acid in the mouth, reducing the amount of damage being done. Apples and pears neutralize acid as well. Dairy foods and nuts are high in calcium and phosphates which help to strengthen the teeth.
You can’t keep all of the more harmful foods away from your kids all of the time, but you can minimize their damage. When serving up acidic foods, serve them along with something else that will work to neutralize the acid. When you want to treat your kids to a sugary drink like juice or soda, have them sip it through a straw to minimize contact with their teeth.
What Not to Eat
As we’ve said, sugary foods do the most damage, but the timing of eating these foods is a big part of the problem. Letting your kids take their vitamins or have a glass of juice right before bed, after they’ve already brushed their teeth will leave their teeth exposed to the sugar all night long. Sugary foods that last a long time, like hard candy, provide more exposure as well.
Foods that stick to the teeth have a tendency to work themselves into hard to clean places where they can really wreak havoc. Sticky candy and dried fruit are just a couple examples of these kinds of foods.
Starchy foods like bread, crackers, and french fries don’t ring the sweet bell, but they still provide sugar for bacteria in the mouth. Starches are quickly converted to sugars by the pre-digestion efforts of saliva, which in turn feeds bacteria. When you allow your children to eat any of the foods on the “What Not to Eat list, ask them to brush their teeth immediately after.
With a little bit of attention and a handful of healthy snacks, you can greatly reduce the chances that your children will need serious dental work.