They say you are what you eat. If that’s so, it’s even more true for your teeth and gums. The food and drinks you put in your mouth, especially starchy or sugary consumables, not only feed yourself, but they also feed the bacteria that live in your mouth and can cause tooth decay and gum disease.
Bacteria, combined with food debris, form a sticky plaque that covers the surfaces of your teeth and gums. When sugars or starches come in contact with the plaque, the resulting acids can eat away at the hard and soft tissues. These acids can hang around for 20 minutes or longer after you finish eating.
The bacteria also trigger an inflammatory response that leads to the breakdown of gum tissue, bone, and other structures that support your teeth.
At Eric Klein DDS & Associates, Dr. Klein and his team provide family dentistry services, serving everyone from the very young to the very old. Other than teaching your child how to brush and floss their teeth, you can teach them about the best and worst foods for their teeth, helping them own a lifetime’s worth of good oral health.
Some good food choices include:
The American Dental Association (ADA) indicates that fibrous and water-containing foods help keep your teeth and gums clean, in part because they get saliva flowing. Saliva is your best natural defense against tooth decay and gum disease.
Immediately after eating, especially something sugary or starchy, have your child at least rinse their mouth out to wash away debris, so the acids produced will be well diluted. About 20 minutes after eating, the saliva starts reducing the effects of the acids. In addition, saliva contains trace amounts of calcium and phosphate, meaning it can also restore the minerals lost from the teeth due to acid attacks.
Cheese also triggers saliva production, and the calcium and phosphates contained in milk, cheese, and other dairy products help remineralize your child’s teeth and rebuild tooth enamel.
If your child likes drinking tea, both green and black teas contain polyphenols that interact with plaque bacteria, either holding them back from making acid or killing them outright. And depending on the type of water you use, a cup of tea can also be a source of fluoride.
The constant chewing action triggers more saliva production, rinsing the food particles from your child’s mouth.
Most municipalities fluoridate their drinking water, so any tap water or product made with fluoridated tap water helps clean your child’s teeth. You can also find fluoride in commercially prepared foods, such as poultry, seafood, and powdered cereals.
Some of the worst foods include:
If your child wants something sweet, give them something that clears out of their mouth quickly: no lollipops or caramels or candies with refined sugar.
The ADA states that chocolate rinses off the teeth more quickly than other candies, and dark chocolate (70% cacao) is purported to have some health benefits, so it’s one of the better sweet options.
You want to limit starchy foods in general, but those that can easily get stuck in your child’s teeth, like soft breads and potato chips, are ripe targets for bacteria. Make sure your child flosses well between the teeth after eating.
Soft drinks are the leading source of added sugar for kids and teens, and most also contain phosphoric and citric acids that eat away at tooth enamel.
Want more tips for how to promote your child’s oral health? Need to schedule an exam? Call our office in Norwalk, Connecticut, today at 203-849-8633, or book online with us today.