A lifetime of good dental health needs the right start. Even though baby teeth eventually fall out, good tooth care now sets children up for healthy permanent teeth. If baby teeth are lost or damaged, permanent teeth can be severely affected. Also, children need healthy teeth to chew food easily and to speak properly and clearly. And that smile is worth a million dollars!
The foods we eat play a large role in preventing cavities. Good sources of calcium like low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt (dairy products) should be included daily. Vitamin C from citrus fruits and juices, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and cauliflower, is needed for healthy gums. Dark green vegetables, like broccoli, provide calcium and vitamin C. All of these foods need to be eaten often.
The way we eat is as important as what we eat for cavity prevention. Many small snacks a day mean lots of opportunities for cavities to develop. Children usually do not brush teeth after snacks. This allows food to remain in the teeth for bacteria to feed on. The bacteria produce acids that attack teeth and cause cavities. Brushing often and rinsing the mouth with water can be helpful.
There are some foods that make healthier snacks “teeth-wise”. Reduced-fat cheese is a healthy snack that increases the amount of saliva produced in the mouth. The saliva washes away starches and sugars. Raw fruits and vegetables can “scrub” the teeth when eaten. Avoid sticky foods (like candies and even raisins) as these will stick to teeth and cause decay.
Most importantly, make sure your child has a good, soft toothbrush and toothpaste available to use after every meal. Show your child the proper way to brush and inspect their teeth when they have finished. Setting a timer for three minutes per brushing session will help to ensure that the job is being done. Regular visits to the dentist, proper brushing, and healthy foods from all five food groups will help your child grow toward a lifetime of dental health.
Email or call Susan Lednicky, Nutritionist with Clark County Cooperative Extension, at 702-257-5548.