You are what you eat.
During adulthood, the saying is absolutely true. The older we get, the less flexibility we tend to have with what or how much we can eat. We can’t eat a box of cookies without paying for it the next day (sometimes immediately).
Kids, however, have it easier with food flexibility. Being in a developmental stage, their bodies allow them to get away with more cheat meals (of course, this may be different for those who are suffering from metabolic anomalies.)
Despite that advantage, it is crucial to teach children the importance of a healthy diet and to install the discipline of making healthy dietary choices from a young age. One of the top reasons for that lesson is to preserve their oral hygiene. So, what are some healthy foods for strong and healthy teeth?
Dairy Products For Healthy Teeth
The first item on the list is an obvious choice: dairy products. They’re a great source of protein, minerals (phosphorus and calcium), and vitamins (vitamin D) and are usually low in sugars.
A 2013 study published in the May/June issue of General Dentistry found that cheese, milk, and sugar-free yogurt help prevent cavities.
The action of chewing on cheese increases the production of saliva in the mouth, thereby increasing the pH levels (decreasing the acidity levels), which in turn protects the enamel from erosion.
Aside from calcium and phosphorus (essential minerals for optimal oral and bone health), dairy products contain a protein called casein. This protein plays a role in recruiting calcium and phosphorus to repair cavities resulting in healthy teeth.
What do all citrus fruits have in common? Vitamin C. This vitamin is necessary for the production of collagen (the tissue that holds everything together), L-carnitine (which converts fat into energy), and certain neurotransmitters, among a long list of functions.
Vitamin C deficiency is known to cause periodontal (gum) disease. Therefore, citrus fruits should be incorporated in your child’s diet in order to protect and strengthen their teeth from altercations.
The daily recommended dose of vitamin C differs between age groups:
- From birth to 6 months: 40mg
- From 7 to 12 months: 50mg
- From 1 to 3 years: 15mg
- From 4 to 8 years: 25mg
- From 9 to 13 years: 45mg
- From 14 to 18: 75mg (for boys) and 65mg (for girls)
As a point of reference, one small orange contains 50 mg of vitamin C, on average .
Veggies For Healthy Teeth
There is a reason why nutritionists and dietitians always recommend a vegetable-rich diet for all age groups. While vegetables may not be calorie-dense for sustaining energy levels, they make up for it by providing minerals, vitamins, and fiber. Just like citrus fruits, there is a variety of veggies with high vitamin C content such as red/green peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, leafy greens, and potatoes. These are foods that make for happy, healthy teeth.
- Washing away food debris from the gums and the teeth (bacteria feeds on the debris then, releases acids that tear down the enamel)
- Diluting sugar right after eating
- Remineralisation of enamel with calcium and phosphates
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends from 1 to 3 cups of vegetables per day for children.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds help remove plaque, which is “a sticky deposit on teeth in which bacteria proliferate.” They are also a great source of calcium and phosphorus.
One particular study suggested that eating cashew nuts eliminates abscess in teeth within a week.
However, beware of when consuming them. Always check that the shells are completely removed as they can crack your child’s teeth. Also, opt for natural nuts/seeds and none of the artificially modified products (i.e., honey-roasted cashews/peanuts/almonds).
Eggs For Healthy Teeth
Eggs are one of the healthiest foods overall. Despite previous controversies claiming that eggs cause high cholesterol (which in turn increases the risk of heart disease), research debunked those rumors.
Eggs are a great source of lean protein, minerals (phosphorus and calcium), and vitamins (vitamin D and vitamin K2).
Those micronutrients interact synergistically to protect the teeth. The minerals (phosphorus and calcium) act together as strengthening agents. A lack of calcium consumption or absorption may eventually cause gum disease and/or tooth decay. Vitamin D ensures that calcium is absorbed in the bones and teeth. And last but not least, vitamin K2 activates a protein called osteocalcin, which is involved in the growth of new dentine (the layer beneath the enamel). This is necessary for healthy teeth.
Water is the essence of life. To exhibit its importance for your children’s teeth, it’s pertinent to look at the consequences of dehydration: saliva is the mouth’s defense mechanism against bacteria. A dry mouth supports the growth of these microorganisms, which in turn causes tooth decay.
Therefore, make sure your kids are drinking enough water for their age (“the number of 8 ounce cups of water equal to their age, with a maximum of 64 ounces of water for children over the age of 8,” according to the Children’s Hospital of Orange County.) Another thing to keep in mind is fluoride content. Fluoride prevents cavities by nullifying/decreasing the effects of acids on teeth. However, too much fluoride in water can cause negative effects (attacking the enamel inside of the tooth causing a condition called fluorosis). The healthy dose of fluoride has been estimated at 0.3 parts per million (ppm). If that’s too confusing, call your local municipality and ask about the substance’s levels in your tap water.
Foods to Limit If You Want Healthy Teeth
Establishing a balanced relationship with food for your kids is one of the most effective strategies to prevent countless food-related ailments. Therefore, no foods should be avoided. Instead, you should teach your kids to limit certain food groups’ consumption.
Here’s a list to keep an eye out for:
- Hard candies
- Sticky food (i.e., gummy bears)
- Crunchy food (i.e., chips)
- Sugar-loaded junk food (i.e., cookies)
Oral Hygiene Is a Must For Healthy Teeth
It goes without saying that maintaining an oral hygiene routine is essential — yet a reminder is always needed.
Eating right is the first step but without a regular oral hygiene routine it’s almost impossible to have healthy teeth. Teach your kids to brush their teeth at least twice a day (upon waking up and before going to bed) and to floss once a day. Last but not least, schedule regular dental checkups with your pediatric dentist.