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How your child’s diet affects their teeth

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It goes without saying that your child’s oral health is really important, and it’s essential that their first teeth are protected properly.

Regular check-ups and cleans are a great way of keeping your little one’s dental health on track, but there are also some ways you can help keep their teeth in tip-top shape at home. Good oral hygiene is key, while dietary choices also play an important role.

Here’s what you should know about choosing foods that won’t damage your child’s teeth …

What to avoid

One of the most damaging foods is hard candy, which tends to get stuck between the teeth and in the crevices at the back of the mouth. The sugar in these sweets tends to stay in the mouth long after the treat itself has been swallowed, giving bacteria and acid plenty of time to begin dissolving the enamel. Hard candies should be avoided completely if your child has braces—they stick to the brackets and wires easily and can cause serious damage to orthodontic appliances.

Starchy foods like biscuits, potato chips and pretzels can also get stuck in between the teeth very easily. If remnants from these kinds of snacks remain in the mouth too long, the debris provides sugar to the bacteria in the mouth, increasing the risk of decay. If your child does enjoy a starchy snack from time to time, simply make sure that they drink some water afterwards to wash out the mouth and get rid of leftover food particles. If the situation allows, have them brush and floss their teeth after eating.

It’s no secret that drinks high in sugar are bad for teeth and sipping on sweet soft drinks over long periods of time can lead to the erosion of enamel as well as an increased risk of tooth decay. Remember that soft drinks are not the only culprit though—sweet juices and sports drinks often contain a considerable amount of sugar as well and should be limited.

Which foods are good for the teeth?

A balanced diet rich in whole foods and nutritious snacks is good for your child’s overall health, as well as the wellbeing of their teeth and gums. Try and incorporate foods that contain calcium—natural yoghurts, milk, and cheese are all good options. In fact, research shows that eating cheese can actually lower acid levels in the mouth. Besides this, calcium is also good for the bones, plus it can help to remineralise the enamel of the teeth.

Fresh fruits and vegetables that are high in fibre are also great for your child. Try and replace sugary snacks like lollies with more nourishing options like apples, berries, carrots, and cucumbers. Nuts make a good alternative to starchy snacks like potato chips and crackers.

Making sure that your little one stays adequately hydrated is also essential for the sake of their overall health, and drinking plenty of water also has benefits when it comes to their oral health. Drinking a bit of water after meals helps to keep the mouth clean, and washes away leftover food debris and unwanted acids, sugars and bacteria that could lead to decay. Water also helps to neutralise the pH balance in the mouth.

Besides making healthy food choices and keeping on track with good oral hygiene habits, bringing your child in for regular check-ups is also very important. Usually, children will be ready for their first check-up between the ages of 2 and 3 years old, but bringing kids in for your own appointment or even the appointments of older siblings, will help to familiarise them with the dental environment. This will help them to be more relaxed when it is their turn, and they are less likely to grow up with anxiety about going to the dentist. Another added benefit of getting started early, of course, is that we are able to identify and possibly resolve problems that might otherwise not be recognised until years later.

The team at Lara Dental love seeing our little patients and getting them excited about caring for their oral health. We offer a range of children’s dentistry services, including routine examinations and cleans, fissure sealants, restorations, mouth guards, and orthodontic treatments. To find out more about our children’s dentistry services, have a look here.

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