February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, a month-long national health observance to promote the benefits of good oral health to children, their caregivers, teachers and many others.
These days, families are faced with a bewildering array of food choices, particularly among the many sugar-laden processed convenience meals and snack foods. Americans are consuming foods and drinks high in sugar and starches more often and in larger portions than ever before. In the United States, on average, individuals consume approximately 50 gallons of sugary beverages per year!
What children eat and when they eat it can affect their general health —contributing to obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes — and their oral health. A steady diet of sugary foods and sugary drinks can ruin teeth, especially among those who snack throughout the day. Habitually grazing on foods with minimal nutritional value and frequently sipping on sugary drinks can contribute to tooth decay.
When sugar is consumed over and over again in large, often hidden amounts, the harmful effect on teeth can be dramatic. Sugar on teeth provides food for bacteria, which produce acid. The acid in turn can eat away the enamel on teeth. A diet that is high in sugars and starches puts children at risk for tooth decay. Starches can be found in everything from bread to pretzels to salad dressing, so read labels and plan carefully for a balanced, nutritious diet for you and your kids.
Here are some tips to reduce your children’s risk of tooth decay:
- Sugary foods and drinks should be consumed with meals. Saliva production increases during meals and helps neutralize acid production and rinse food particles from the mouth.
- Limit between-meal snacks. If kids crave a snack, offer them nutritious foods.
- If your kids chew gum, make it sugarless. Chewing sugarless gum after eating can increase saliva flow and help wash out food and decay-producing acid.
- Monitor beverage consumption. Children should make healthy beverage choices such water and low-fat milk.
- Help your children develop good brushing and flossing habits. Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and clean between the teeth daily.
- Schedule regular dental visits.
If you have additional questions about healthy snacking and other nutrition tips for your family, please contact us at Enlighten Dental Care.