Diet and Oral Health

By: J. Shahangian, DDS, MS- San Diego Board Certified Pediatric Dentist

What to Eat for Healthy Teeth
The first step of the digestive system is your mouth.  Here, the food you eat meets bacteria and germs in your mouth.  These two things can lead to plaque buildup.  I may have talked to you about plaque. Plaque is a sticky film bacteria.  Plaque enjoys starches and sugars found in foods your child eats every day.  Plaque produces acids that break down the enamel of the teeth.  Over time the tooth begins to decay.  The more you eat and the food sticks to your teeth, the more likely you are to develop tooth decay.

It is vital to brush and floss your child’s teeth daily to maintain healthy teeth in the long run.  I also recommend you eat these kinds of foods: vegetables and fruits; cereals and breads; cheese (e.g. cottage cheese); milk, fish, eggs, and meat.

Foods that are high on starch such as pasta, breads, crackers, and snacks such as potato chips and pretzels are not good for your teeth.  The following list of food is a list of healthy foods, but can still cause cavities as you grow older:

  • Jam
  • Cookies
  • Raisins
  • Chocolate milk Cake
  • Popsicles
  • Chocolate bars
  • Pudding
  • Dried fruits
  • Chocolate milk
  • Ice cream
  • Fruit Rollups
  • Milk shakes
  • Granola bars
  • Gummy bears
  • Sherbet
  • Candy

There are several factors that dentist have observed which can lead to your child developing cavities and other serious tooth problems.  This includes drinking less milk and juice and consuming more soda. Fizzy soda pop destroys the enamel of your teeth.

It is important to remember to wash your child’s mouth with water daily after meals.  It is important for your child to develop this daily routine even at school so your child can have acid and sugar free teeth.[1]

 

Overview and General Tips
The proper dental care for your child begins at birth.  As a parent, there are many things you can do to ensure your child has strong healthy teeth and gums.  An important factor is developing health habits about oral hygiene.  This includes teaching your child to properly floss and brush daily as well as teaching your child to eat healthy foods.  Later in life, these habits can lead to a healthy overall oral care and appearance.

The proper nutrition can prevent your child from developing long-term effects of tooth decay and gum disease.  You can help prevent these problems by limiting the amount of snacks in-between meals and by feeding your child balanced meals.  Here is a short list of healthy foods for your child: cheese, yogurt, uncooked vegetables, and fruits.

The saliva also works a s buffer to protect your child’s teeth.  Saliva remineralizes the teeth and thus protects it from plaque (plaque is the coat of bacteria that grows on the gums and teeth, and is caused by food bacteria).  Here is a tip.  Buy sugarless gum for your child to create more saliva.  Gum stimulates saliva production, and this helps protect your child’s teeth.

The two best methods for eliminating plaque are flossing and brushing your teeth.  Toothpaste and some mouth rinses, in addition to the water we drink, contain fluoride.  Fluoride helps  remineralize the surface of your child’s teeth.

There are other sources of fluoride such as: dietary supplements, high concentrate fluoride gels, and anti-cavity varnishes provide the needed fluoride.  Sealants can help your child have that additional protection against harmful bacteria.

I recommend that you bring your baby to see me by his/her first birthday (usually the first tooth will erupt by age 1).  Prevention and early checkups is the key for protecting your baby’s smile now and in the future.  Early on, even during infancy, dental problems can begin.  That is why semi-annual checkups are important.  During my checkups I can spot early on conditions such as gum disease, prolonged thumb-sucking, teeth irritations, and bottle tooth decay.  Yes!  Bottle decay is a form of tooth decay that forms when infants use a bottle at night or during naps or breast feeding too much.  My goal is to make sure your child maintains healthy teeth for good health and development by having strong teeth to chew food with more ease, and to learn to speak more clearly.
Your child can develop bottle tooth decay which is caused by your child’s exposure to liquids high in sugar.  These liquids include: fruit juice, soda, formula, milk, formula, and other sweet drinks.  The sugar in these drinks gathers around your baby’s gums and teeth.  The bacteria in the mouth feeds from this sugar, so these drinks can lead to plaque.  Lastly, pacifiers dipped in sugar, syrup, or honey can also lead to your baby developing bottle tooth decay.

For this reason, it is important to encourage your child to drink from a cup by age one.  Drinking from a cup prevents bottle tooth decay.  In addition, you should make sure your child does not fall asleep with the bottle.  Moreover, you should avoid nighttime breastfeeding after the first tooth has erupted.  Do not let your child drink fruit juices from a bottle, and only let your child drink from a cup.  These steps will help prevent bottle tooth decay.

I recommend weaning your child off the bottle as soon as she/he can drink out of a cup.  This process should be timed right because taking away the bottle too soon can damage the development of the tongue and facial muscles because the sucking motion helps in this development.[2]

 



[2] http://www.jacksondentalcare.com/1_peds.php , accessed December 26, 2011

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