One of the foundational ways in which parents can build healthy, lifetime habits in children is by teaching them the importance of a nutrition-rich diet from a very young age. As the saying goes, we are what we eat, and a nutritionally balanced meal is important for the growth of good, strong teeth and gums as well.
In this article, we are going to look at some of the very best foods you can add to your child’s daily diet to prevent cavities, infected gums and a host of other oral health issues that are plaguing one out of five children in the country today.
While most people are aware that milk is good for children, few realize just how important milk is for pediatric dental health. Studies have shown that in moderation, milk can help to reduce the risk of tooth decay in children, and that kids who consume milk on a regular basis have stronger teeth than those who do not.
The high content of calcium in milk strengthens tooth enamel, making it more resistant to damage and decay. The fat content keeps the mouth lubricated, which prevents dehydration and gum disease.
Nutritional value: One cup of whole cow’s milk contains 152 calories, 88% water, 8.14g of protein, 12g of carbs, 12g of sugar and 8g of fat.
Cheese gets a bad rap sometimes because it is associated with so many `junk’ foods (like pizza) that kids are advised not to eat in unrestricted amounts.
But like milk, cheese is also rich in calcium and enamel-protecting casein and whey proteins.
Nutritional Value: 1 slice (1 oz) of cheddar contains 113 calories, 9g of total fat, 27.4 mg of potassium, 0.4g of carbohydrates, 7g of protein and 20% of calcium in a 2,000 calorie daily diet.
Besides calcium, yogurt also contains lactic acid, which prevents cavities, and probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that help to keep the mouth clean and free of harmful microbes.
Nutritional Value: 100 gms of plain, whole milk-based yogurt contains 61 calories, 88% of water, 3.5g of protein, 4.7g of carbohydrates, 4.7g of sugar and 3.3g of fat.
For children (who are generally at a higher risk for tooth decay) consuming salmon on a regular basis can be especially beneficial. It is a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, both of which are essential for maintaining strong teeth and preventing tooth decay.
The protein in salmon builds up teeth enamel, while omega-3 fatty acids contribute to the production of saliva. Saliva is important for keeping teeth clean by removing food particles and bacteria from the mouth.
Nutritional Value: 100 gms of cooked, wild salmon contains 182 calories, 25g of protein, 8g of fat, 45 mg of calcium, 0.61 og of iron and 434 mg of potassium.
Eggs contain many essential nutrients, such as choline which helps reduce inflammation in the gums. The high levels of calcium and presence of phosphates fight cavities and tooth decay, while generous levels of protein assist in the repair of damaged oral tissues.
Nutritional Value: 1 large, hard-boiled egg contains 77 calories, 0.6g of carbohydrates, 5.3g of total fat and 6.3g of protein.
Garlic is rich in sulfur-containing compounds that fight oral bacteria. It is also a natural antibiotic, which can help to reduce inflammation in the gums.
Nutritional Value:1 clove of raw garlic contains 13.41 calories, 0.57g of protein, 0.04g of fat, 2.98g of carbohydrates, 0.19 of dietary fiber, 16.29 mg of calcium and 36.09 mg of potassium.
One way to help protect young teeth is by including plenty of nuts in the diet, as the act of chewing helps to clean teeth and remove plaque.
Although all nuts are a good source of nutrients, some are especially beneficial for oral health. For instance, peanuts are a great source of calcium, which is essential for strong teeth. Almonds are rich in phosphorus, which is another mineral that helps to keep teeth healthy. Walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation and promote tissue healing.
8: Crunchy Vegetables
Children who eat plenty of crunchy veggies are less likely to develop cavities and other oral health problems. Crunchy vegetables like carrots and celery help to clean the teeth and gums while chewing. Additionally, leafy greens like spinach and kale are also packed with vitamins and minerals that support dental health.
9: Crispy Fruits
Many fruits are high in water content, which keep the mouth hydrated and wash away plaque-causing bacteria. Some fruits are also rich in minerals like calcium, phosphorus and certain acids that break down plaque and remove stains from teeth. So next time your kid is looking for a snack, suggest an apple, carrot or a celery stick.
7 Foods That Harm Oral Health In Children
In addition to the list of teeth-friendly things you should encourage children to eat, a parent must also be aware of the foods they should be taught to stay away from, or consume in limited quantities, for the healthy growth of teeth and gums. These include:
- Sticky sweets – such as toffee, caramel or chewing gum.
- Hard candy – like lollipops or jawbreakers, which can crack or break teeth.
- Acidic fruits and juices – like lemons, oranges and grapefruits, which can erode tooth enamel.
- Starchy foods – such as chips, pretzels and crackers that can get stuck in between teeth and promote the growth of bacteria.
- Sugary drinks – like soda.
- Sticky foods – like dried fruits (raisins, figs, dates), granola bars and candy bars.
- Sugary breakfast cereals – like Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms.
Make sure your child is drinking plenty of water, as a well-hydrated mouth discourages growth of oral bacteria. Teach them the importance of brushing and flossing after each meal.
Start early with a healthy dental regimen. As soon as your child’s first tooth erupts, start cleaning it with a soft, wet cloth. When they’re old enough, teach them how to brush and floss their teeth correctly. Invest in a good pediatric toothbrush. Visit a pediatric dentist regularly and schedule regular checkups.
Set a good example. Kids are more likely to take care of their teeth if they see their parents doing the same. Be sure to brush and floss your own teeth regularly.