AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRIC DENTISTRY 2014
DIET AND DENTAL HEALTH
FACTS ON FOOD
- Children’s dental health depends less on what they eat and more on how often they eat it.
- About 90 percent of all foods contain sugars or starches that enable bacteria in dental plaque to produce acids. This attack by bacterial acid, lasting 20 minutes or more, can lead to loss of tooth mineral and to cavities.
- Acids present in carbonated beverages can have a greater negative effect (i.e., erosion) on enamel than the acids produced by bacteria from the sugars present in sweetened drinks. Still, many juices and “sports drinks” contain as much sugar as soda.
- If children have poor diets, their teeth may not develop properly. Children need protein, vitamins and minerals, especially calcium and phosphorous, to build strong teeth and resist tooth decay and gum disease.
- Snacks, served no more than two times a day, should contribute to the overall nutrition and development of the child. Some healthy snacks are fruit, nuts, cheese, vegetables, Greek yogurt, popcorn, peanut butter and chocolate milk.
- A child who licks a piece of hard candy every few minutes to make it last longer or slowly sips juice while playing is flirting with a high risk of tooth decay. Such long-lasting snacks create an acid attack on teeth for the entire time they are in the mouth.
- Cooked starches (fermentable carbohydrates) can lead to cavities just as sugars can. In fact, such cooked starches as breads, crackers, pasta, pretzels and potato chips frequently take longer to clear the mouth than sugars. So the decay risk may last even longer.
- A food with sugar or starch is safer for teeth if it is eaten with a meal, not as a snack.
TIPS FOR PARENTS: DIET AND DENTAL HEALTH
- Ask your pediatric dentist to help you assess your child’s diet.
- Provide a balanced diet and save foods with sugar or starch for meal times.
- Limit the number of snack times. Choose nutritious snacks.
- Shop smart. Do not routinely stock your pantry with sugary or starchy snacks. Buy “fun foods” just for special times.
- Do not put your young child to bed with a bottle of milk, formula or juice.
- If your child chews gum or sips soda, select products that are sugar-free. Recent evidence suggests the use of xylitol chewing gum can decrease a child’s caries rate.
CHEESE: THE CAVITY FIGHTER
- Certain cheeses have been shown to have characteristics that disrupt the development of cavities when eaten alone as a snack or at the end of a meal.
- Cheeses such as aged cheddar, swiss, mozzarella and monterey jack stimulate the flow of saliva, clearing the mouth of food debris and acting as a buffer to neutralize the acids that attack teeth.
- The calcium and phosphorous found in cheese also reduce or prevent decreases in pH levels of saliva and promote remineralization of tooth enamel.