Nutrition and Your Teeth
It has long been known that good nutrition and a well-balanced diet is one of the best defenses for your oral health. Providing your body with the right amounts of minerals and vitamins helps your teeth and gums-as well as your immune system-stay strong and ward off disease, decay and infection.
Harmful acids and bacteria in your mouth are left behind from eating foods high in sugar and carbohydrates. These include carbonated beverages, some kinds of fruit juices, and many kinds of starch foods like bread, pasta and cereal.
Children’s Nutrition and Teeth
Good eating habits that begin in early childhood can go a long way to ensuring a lifetime of good oral health.
Children should eat foods rich in calcium and other kinds of minerals, as well as a healthy balance of the essential food groups like vegetables, fruits, dairy products, poultry and meat. Fluoride supplements may be helpful if you live in a community without fluoridated water, but consult with our office first. (Be aware that sugars are even found in some kinds of condiments, as well as fruits and even milk.).
Allowing your children to eat excessive amounts of junk food (starches and sugars)- including potato chips, cookies, crackers, soda, even artificial fruit rollups and granola bars-only places them at risk for serious oral health problems, including osteoporosis, diabetes and obesity. The carbonation found in soda, for example, can actually erode tooth enamel. When drinking soda; this will help keep at least some of the carbonated beverage away from the teeth, encourage your child to use a straw.
Smart Snacks for Healthy Teeth
There’s no discounting the importance of continuing a healthy balanced diet throughout your adult life.
What’s wrong with sugary snacks, anyway?
Sugary snacks taste so good– but they aren’t so good for your teeth or your body. The candies, cakes, cookies and other sugary foods that kids love to eat between meals can cause tooth decay. Some sugary foods have a lot of fat in them, too. Kids who consume sugary snacks eat many different kinds of sugar every day, including table sugar (sucrose) and corn sweeteners (fructose). Once they’re in your mouth, starchy snacks can also break down into sugars.
How do sugars attack your teeth?
Invisible germs called bacteria live in your mouth all the time. Some of these bacteria form a sticky material called plaque on the surface of the teeth. When you put sugar in your mouth, the bacteria in the plaque gobble up the sweet stuff and turn it into acids. These acids are powerful enough to dissolve the hard enamel that covers your teeth. That’s how cavities get started. The bacteria can’t produce as much of the acid that eats away enamel if you don’t eat much sugar.
How can I “snack smart” to protect myself from tooth decay?
Before you start munching on a snack, ask yourself what’s in the food you’ve chosen. Is it loaded with sugar? If it is, think again. Another choice would be better for your teeth. And keep in mind that certain kinds of sweets can do more damage than others. Gooey or chewy sweets spend more time sticking to the surface of your teeth. They give your teeth a longer sugar bath because sticky snacks stay in your mouth longer than foods that you quickly swallow and chew. You should also think about when and how often you eat snacks. Do you nibble on sugary snacks many times throughout the day, or do you usually just have dessert after dinner? Damaging acids form in your mouth every time you eat a sugary snack. The acids continue to affect your teeth for at least 20 minutes before they are neutralized and can’t do any more harm. So, the more times you eat sugary snacks during the day, the more often you feed bacteria the fuel they need to cause tooth decay.
If you eat sweets, it’s best to eat them as dessert after a main meal instead of several times a day between meals. Whenever you eat sweets– in any meal or snack– brush your teeth well with a fluoride toothpaste afterward.
When you’re deciding about snacks, think about:
– The number of times a day you eat sugary snacks
– How long the sugary food stays in your mouth
– The texture of the sugary food (Chewy? Sticky?)
If you snack after school, before bedtime, or other times during the day, choose something without a lot of sugar or fat. There are lots of tasty, filling snacks that are less harmful to your teeth– and the rest of your body– than foods loaded with sugars and low in nutritional value. Snack smart!
Low-fat choices like raw vegetables, fresh fruits, or whole-grain crackers or bread are smart choices. Eating the right foods can help protect you from tooth decay and other diseases. Next time you reach for a snack, pick a food from the list inside or make up your own menu of non-sugary, low-fat snack foods from the basic food groups.
How can you snack smart? Be choosy!
Pick a variety of foods from these groups:
Raw vegetables and fresh fruits.
Unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices
Canned fruits in natural juices
Tortilla chips (baked, not fried)
Milk and dairy products
Non-fat or low milk
Low or non-fat yogurt
Non-fat or low cheese
Non-fat or low cottage cheese
Meat, seeds and nuts
( these snacks combine foods from the different groups).
– Choose sugary foods less often
– Avoid sweets between meals
– Eat a variety of low or non-fat foods from the basic groups
– Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste after meals and snacks
Note to parents
The foods listed in this leaflet have not all been tested for their decay-causing potential. Knowledge to date indicates that they are less likely to promote tooth decay than are some of the heavily sugared foods children often eat between meals.
Candy bars aren’t the only culprits. Foods such as pizza, breads, and hamburger buns may also contain sugars. Check the label. The new food labels identify sugars and fats on the Nutrition Facts panel on the package. Brown sugar, honey, molasses and syrups also react with bacteria to produce acids, just as refined table sugar does. These foods also are potentially damaging to teeth.
Your child’s snacks and meals should include a variety of foods from the basic food groups, including fruits and vegetables; grains, including breads and cereals; milk and dairy products; and meat, nuts and seeds. Children should brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste after meals and snacks.
Please note: These general recommendations may need to be adapted for children on special diets because of diseases or conditions that interfere with normal nutrition.
The candies, cakes, cookies and other sugary foods that kids love to eat between meals can cause tooth decay. Because sticky snacks stay in your mouth longer than foods that you quickly chew and swallow, they give your teeth a longer sugar bath. There are lots of tasty, filling snacks that are less harmful to your teeth– and the rest of your body– than foods loaded with sugars and low in nutritional value. Next time you reach for a snack, pick a food from the list inside or make up your own menu of non-sugary, low-fat snack foods from the basic food groups.
Your child’s meals and snacks should include a variety of foods from the basic food groups, including fruits and vegetables; grains, including breads and cereals; milk and dairy products; and meat, nuts and seeds. Visit http://www.nutritionon-line.com for more information about nutrition that is good for teeth.