Keeping your child’s teeth healthy isn’t an easy job. Even if your family practices healthy dental hygiene, with daily brushing and flossing plus regular trips to the dentist, there are other factors at play. Diet plays an important role in dental care from an early age. There are certain foods such as leafy greens and cheese (which both contain calcium) that support healthy teeth. But are there foods you should watch out for? Here is a list of the top foods that damage teeth. The list is quite similar to “top foods that children love to eat,” but we’ll also suggest healthy alternatives!
Hard Candies – This includes lollipops, which are often found waiting for children in banks, retail stores and other public locations. Regular exposure to the sugar in hard candy can lead to bacteria growth. If the child doesn’t brush their teeth or rinse their mouth soon after consuming these candies, plaque may form, which can then lead to tooth decay and cavities. Lollipops are especially dangerous, since they’re placed inside the mouth for extended periods of time and swished around. Another danger of hard candies is that if a child bites down hard into the candy, it may cause a chipped or broken tooth. What’s a satisfying alternative? Try ADA-approved sugarless gum, which keeps the mouth and teeth engaged without the danger of sugar.
Fruit Juices – Kids love to drink fruit juice because, let’s face it, a sweet fruit juice is far more interesting than water! However, citrus fruits that are acidic can erode tooth enamel, which leaves them susceptible to future tooth decay. Children-friendly fruit juices that contain sugar can be even more damaging, inviting bacteria, which can lead to plaque buildup and decay. Water is the healthiest beverage choice for kids. If they drink sugary fruit juice, make sure they brush their teeth right afterwards or at least rinse their mouth with water.
Sticky Foods – It is often difficult to keep sticky foods out of your child’s diet. After all, peanut butter and jelly is a standard kids’ lunch. There are also supposedly healthy snack foods that you might not think are bad for teeth, such as dried fruit. But items like dried apples and trail mix are sticky, so they remain on the teeth longer, inviting bacteria. If your child snacks on dried fruit or trail mix, make sure that they rinse their mouth afterwards in addition to brushing and flossing to remove leftover food particles.
Crunchy Foods – Kids love crunchy foods like pretzels, potato chips and crackers, but these types of foods contain starch which, if left on or in-between teeth, can lead to bacteria growth and eventually, tooth decay. Crunchy kids’ cereals fall into this category also. Healthy (and crunchy) alternatives are carrots and celery. These are better snacks, because if it’s between meals and your child isn’t brushing right afterwards, there’s less chance of plaque buildup. If they do eat potato chips or crackers as snacks, encourage them to brush and floss carefully to remove any remaining bits of food left in the teeth.
Soda – There are many reasons why children (or anyone else, for that matter) shouldn’t regularly consume soda. In dental terms, the sugar in soft drinks is very damaging to tooth enamel, because it interacts with your mouth bacteria to form acid, which can then damage tooth enamel and cause decay. Soft drinks, even sugar-free sodas, also contain their own acid. Switching from soda to water is a smart choice. Another option is a healthy smoothie, which can be made from many kinds of ingredients like strawberries, bananas, blueberries and even vegetables.
Sports Drinks – Sports drinks and flavored water drinks are very popular, but like soda, they’re acidic and they also contain sugar. In fact, some brands of sports drinks can contain as much as 14 teaspoons of sugar in every bottle. Children may enjoy the different flavors of sports drinks, but they’re very bad for young teeth. A healthy option is vegetable juice, which is flavorful and will give kids a boost of energy — though they probably don’t need it as much as you do!