Childhood Nutrition and Its Impact on Dental Health

Good oral hygiene habits are the foundations of dental health for children, but good nutrition is also crucial. Keeping teeth healthy and strong requires the proper nutrients to strengthen them and help protect against decay. Kids should also avoid some foods to prevent cavities and gum disease.

Nutrients Children Need

Calcium

This mineral is one of the essential nutrients for the growth and maintenance of bones and teeth. Calcium is one of the main components of tooth enamel. Children can get most of their calcium from dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, so it’s crucial to have enough vitamin D to process the calcium your child is getting. Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D. Encouraging your child to play outside each day is good for their overall health and will help them absorb vitamin D to help them process calcium. Vitamin D is also found in eggs, fortified foods, and fatty fish.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C strengthens the immune system, protecting against gum disease. Without enough vitamin C, your child’s gums could become inflamed and sensitive, leading to gingivitis. Make sure your child gets plenty of vitamin C from fresh fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, broccoli, kiwi, and bell peppers. If your child drinks orange juice in the mornings, be sure they drink one without added sugar and brush their teeth afterward.

Phosphorus

Although you may hear less about phosphorus, this mineral promotes proper tooth mineralization. It’s found in dairy products, nuts, and fish. Children who eat phosphorus-rich food have stronger, more robust teeth.

What Your Children Should Eat and Drink for Healthy Teeth

  • Lean meats
  • Nuts and proteins such as tofu.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables (pears, watermelon, and cucumbers are especially good. The high water content helps keep teeth clean)
  • Whole grain foods
  • Cheese, milk, and low-fat dairy products
  • Water, especially tap water, which is often fluoridated.

Foods Your Children Should Avoid or Limit

  • Sugary drinks and desserts, including fruit juices (fresh, whole fruits are best)
  • Sticky, crunchy foods that stick to the teeth, encouraging tooth decay.
  • Highly processed foods
  • Carbohydrate-rich foods

Good Nutrition Habits for Healthy Teeth

How your child eats is as important as what they eat. While an occasional after-school snack is okay, snacking throughout the day isn’t good for your child’s teeth. When they eat small amounts throughout the day, saliva cannot thoroughly wash away food debris or neutralize the acids that lead to tooth decay.

If your child drinks fruit juices, make sure they brush afterward to remove any sugary coating from the teeth, as the sugars turn to acids that attack tooth enamel. Do not give fruit juices or milk to children in a bottle. When children drink from a bottle, the liquid pools around the teeth in the back of the mouth. For the same reason, never put your child down for a nap or to bed with a bottle that contains anything other than water.

Children love to chew gum. The good news is that you don’t have to ban them from chewing; you just have to shop wisely. Look for sugar-free gum that contains xylitol as a sweetener. Chewing gum stimulates saliva production, which washes away damaging acids from around the teeth. Xylitol reduces harmful bacteria in the mouth that could cause tooth decay.

Finally, make an appointment with Dr. Vakili for your child’s dental checkup and teeth cleaning. If you have any questions about your child’s nutritional needs, she can review them with you then. To schedule an appointment, contact our office at Kentfield Office Phone Number 415-454-6414.