| FACTS ON FOOD
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.
Parents should select meals and snacks for dental health and for general health, providing sound nutrition as defined by the food pyramid of the US Department of Agriculture. Snacks, served no more than three times a day, should contribute to the overall nutrition and development of the child. Some healthy snacks are cheese, vegetables, yogurt, peanut butter and chocolate milk.
Sugars are essentially the same, whether natural or processed, to cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth. All types of sugars and the foods that contain them can play a role in tooth decay.
A child who licks a piece of hard candy every few minutes to make it last longer or slowly sips a sugared drink while studying, 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
1. Ask your pediatric dentist to help you assess your child’s diet.
2. Provide a balanced diet and save foods with sugar or starch for meal times.
3. Limit the number of snack times. Choose nutritious snacks.
4. Shop smart. Do not routinely stock your pantry with sugary or starchy snacks. Buy "fun foods" just for special times.
5. Do not put your young child to bed with a bottle of milk, formula or juice.
6. 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.
Dr. Daniel Ravel, DDS
1031 Weiss Ave, Fayetteville, NC 28305