With an eye towards protecting the long-term health of children, the American Dental Association recently urged Congress to protect nutrition education and food assistance programs found in existing legislation by reauthorizing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA).
“The HHFKA helps to support a number of programs designed to improve the dietary habits of our most vulnerable children,” stated the ADA in an open letter to the House Senate committees responsible for renewing the legislation. “Through these programs, we can help prevent oral disease by raising awareness about how diet and nutrition impact oral health.”
The ADA urged Congress to consider the following programs as an urgent part of protecting the health of some of the country’s most at-risk kids:
- Continue requiring schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to maintain scientifically approved nutrition standards for foods sold to kids in school, including those sold outside of the cafeteria, such as in vending machines and school stores.
- Continue requiring schools that participate in the NSLP to maintain policies that promote healthy eating, and encouraging local planning committees that plan school meals to include dentists in their activities.
- Extend support to the Team Nutrition program, which plans and distributes nutrition education materials schools can use in the classroom that help to promote healthy eating in kids.
- Extend nutrition education and obesity prevention programs operating at the state level to promote healthy food choices, with a particular emphasis on diets that help improve oral health.
Protecting Kids’ Oral and Overall Health
The primary goal of the ADA in supporting these types of nutrition assistance programs is to help educate kids and parents about how a child’s diet can affect his or her oral health.
By encouraging kids to eat healthy – more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and unprocessed foods – they will consume far less sugar on a daily basis.
Sugar combines with harmful bacteria found in the mouth to create substances that slowly erode away at the surface of an individual’s tooth enamel. The more frequently a child eats sugar on a daily basis – whether from soft drinks, candy or carbohydrates – the more likely they are to develop tooth decay and gum disease.
A child’s oral health plays an important role in the development of his or her long-term oral health as an adult. Kids that suffer from tooth decay at a young age face the possibility of a number of challenges that range from poor grades to missed school to problems with eating, drinking, speech and malaligned teeth.
One of the easiest ways to ensure a child enjoys quality oral health well into adulthood is by providing a healthy diet and good oral hygiene routine everyday, starting at a young age. By advocating Congress to continue offering kids healthy meal alternatives in school, the ADA hopes to improve the long-term oral health of millions of children.
At Must Love Kids Pediatric Dentistry, your pediatric dentist in Vancouver, we want every child to enjoy the very best oral health possible. If you have any questions about your child’s diet or oral hygiene, please ask any member of our staff during your next appointment.