In light of growing rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancers (all of which may be linked to poor oral health, by the way), good nutrition is becoming a top priority in our society, particularly in the formative years. Yet those are the same years in which your children are likely to be toothbrushing-challenged and also the most finicky and fast-food crazed.
Quite a prospect! But from what parents tell me and from what I see in the dental chair, it’s not impossible. Mostly, it’s creating a common-sense plan and then sticking to it. A lot of this you know…
• Choose a variety of nutritious foods from the major food groups – the Nutrition Plate is readily available online at ChooseMyPlate.gov and in schools, libraries, and day care centers. If you have a copy of the old food pyramid and you’re used to it, it’s still a very useful tool.
• Some snacks are obviously healthier than others. Fresh veggies, yogurts, and cheese or dairy substitutes are better than those with high sugar content like candy or mints. A snack that is swallowed quickly, such as a drink, is better than one that sticks to the teeth, like peanut butter. It seems obvious to avoid soft, sticky, sweet foods like caramels and jelly beans and beverages like soda, sweet teas, and juices. And yet, it can get tricky…
You have to get into the habit of reading food labels if you want to choose foods and drinks that are low in added sugars which aren’t only found in pastries, cookies, candies, and soft drinks, but in just about everything these days. And that means vigilance when dining out as well. An increasing number of restaurants are posting nutritional information on their menus or online, or will provide it if asked, but not all do.
As for advice about eating out and tips on how to get your child to eat healthier meals and snacks, there are many excellent and helpful books and magazines that provide child-friendly recipes, and of course, an abundance of information online.
In fact, the sheer volume of information that’s published, even when it’s legitimate and scientific, can be confusing. It helps to understand that tooth decay occurs when foods containing sugars and starches are frequently left on the teeth to form plaque, the sticky film of bacteria on your teeth that you can feel with your tongue. This can break down tooth enamel and cause cavities and gum disease unless it is removed by regular brushing and flossing.
So the common sense solution is to…
• Limit the amount of decay-causing foods mentioned earlier.
• Encourage your family to drink water instead of sugary drinks, sodas, or sports drinks, especially after a sweet or sticky snack. Keeping the mouth hydrated also promotes saliva which protects oral tissues.
• Encourage tooth brushing using toothpaste twice a day and flossing once a day.
• Visit us twice a year (unless an individual treatment plan indicates a higher frequency) to monitor oral health.
If it’s been a while since you have had your family’s oral health assessed or if you feel you need some instruction on the best home routines for your children, we encourage you to call our office and let on our team help you out.