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Every parent wants their children to have strong, healthy teeth. Your pediatric dentist is an important partner in making this happen, but good habits at home can make the biggest difference. Good habits and preventive care are key, and nutrition is one of the top factors in building strong teeth from the start.
Strong Teeth for Life: Nutrition is Key
Great nutrition from an early age is one of the most important gifts we can give our children. This means providing healthy meals and snacks and also becoming a role model in our own eating habits. Children will eat what’s available and accessible, and it’s our job to make sure the right things are in our fridges and pantries. Here are some of the foods that help build strong teeth:
- Dairy Products: Calcium is a key building block for healthy teeth and bones. Calcium helps build strong teeth, fights decay and keeps your jaw bone strong to anchor those teeth. Your child can get calcium from the well-known sources like milk, cheese and yogurt. Dairy products also contain Vitamin D, another important nutrient for teeth and gums. Just take it easy on the chocolate milk–it’s a definite no-no at night because of high sugar content.
- Fruits and Veggies: It’s hard to have strong teeth without healthy gums. Your child’s gums are the anchors that provide a strong foundation for those pearly whites, and Vitamin C is a big contributor to gum health. Natural fruits and vegetables are one of the most important sources of Vitamin C, and some of the best sources are citrus, kiwi, strawberries, green vegetables and bell peppers. While children may resist some of these foods at first, many are an easy sell, and vegetables can be made more appealing with fun presentation. Keep offering your child vegetables even if they initially refuse, and let them see you eating and enjoying your favorite veggies.
- Proteins: We talk a lot about calcium, but phosphorus is another important mineral for building strong teeth and bones. It helps your body absorb calcium and build those healthy bones. Phosphorus can be found in healthy lean meats, eggs, tofu, beans and nuts. Walnuts and almonds are some of our very favorite snacks–they’re rich in minerals as well as healthy fats for overall health.
How Can My Child Snack Healthy?
Healthy snacking for strong teeth is all about the crunch. Crunchy raw vegetables and fruits are one of the best snacks you can give your children. Not only are they jam-packed with the vitamins kids need for oral and overall health, the crunch is good for teeth too. Carrots, cut cauliflower, apple slices, colorful bell peppers and celery are some of the best choices. They act as a kind of natural dental floss and actually remove plaque and other food particles from your child’s teeth.
How Can Good Habits Help With Strong Teeth?
In addition to nutrition and healthy snacks, starting good habits from a young age can help build strong teeth. Here are some of the most important:
- Drink water. It has no harmful sugars and helps clean the teeth by washing away food particles.
- Avoid sodas and sports drinks and limit juice since beverages are one of the worst sources of sugar in children’s diets. Avoid juice and sweetened drinks in sippy cups and stick with water.
- Brush using a small amount of fluoride toothpaste as soon as teeth appear as recommended by the ADA.
- Get kids flossing early with special kid-friendly flossers, and start modeling great flossing habits yourself.
- Fluoride mouth rinse can also boost protection and rinse away food particles missed when flossing.
- See your dentist regularly for routine care, including proven preventive techniques like fluoride treatments and sealants
What Food and Habits Should My Child Avoid?
- For children, sugar is the main thing to avoid when working to build strong teeth. Sugar leads to enamel damaging bacteria and can cause bad habits that lead to gum disease down the road.
- Limit sodas and sports drinks and gummy and hard candies to special occasions. Watch dried fruits like raisins which also contain high concentrations of sugar.
- Sweet treats are best with a meal as dessert rather than as a snack. Your child is more likely to drink water to wash food particles away and more likely to brush after a meal.
- Avoid bad habits like chewing on ice and opening packaging with your teeth.
- Avoid injuries by wearing helmets when appropriate and wearing mouthguards when playing sports.
Parents and Pediatric Dentists Building Strong Teeth Together
Working together, parents and pediatric dentists can help children build strong, healthy teeth for a lifetime. With parents providing good nutrition and overseeing daily oral hygiene, your dentist works to catch problems early and uses tried and true methods for preventive care including routine cleanings, fluoride treatments and sealants. We can also help with encouragement and reinforcement of positive behaviors and strategies for nipping bad habits in the bud. At NOVA Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics, we believe great relationships help build great habits–which in turn build strong teeth for kids.