The importance of helping your child maintain a healthy and beautiful smile is sometimes overlooked by parents during the course of a busy day. Aside from avoiding the discomfort of fillings and aggressive teeth cleaning, plaque buildup and dental decay can cause significant pain, tooth loss, and shifts in the position of teeth which can develop into long-term chewing problems. Poor dental hygiene may even lead to life-threatening diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Diligently maintaining proper daily oral hygiene by correctly brushing and flossing teeth is essential for helping to prevent dental problems. In addition, visiting a dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups can help find and correct minor dental issues before they have time to become serious. But there is another area of oral hygiene which is overlooked more than any other: a child’s diet.
The food people eat directly contributes to their oral health. Food which are good for teeth include cheese, nuts, meat, and milk. Foods rich in calcium help to protect and restore tooth enamel. Firm and crunchy fruits and vegetables help to clean teeth, and to neutralize acids by increasings the production of salvia.
Bad foods, such as acidic fruit, and any food made with with refined carbohydrates, like crackers, are bad for teeth. One of the biggest culprit for perodontial issues is sugar — but not all sugar is the same.
Where the sugar comes from matters!
There are two types of common sugars: Monosaccharides, simple sugars, and disaccharides, which are commonly called compound sugars. Both types of sugars occur naturally in food, and provide a quick energy boast. Fruit, vegetables, grains and even milk all have these naturally occuring sugars, and are known as “good sugars”. The foods which contain “good sugars” also provide vitamins, minerals and fiber which are critical to a healthy diet.
Foods with additional refined sugars are best avoided. These are the “bad sugars”. Processed sugars which are added to a food only to increase its sweetness have no health benefis, but can lead to many problems later in life.
Ways to help your child eat healthier and reduce dental problems.
Parents make a real difference in the health of their children by providing them with a healthy and nutrious diet. The problem is that most kids are not known for making good dietary choices.
You can lower the amount of “bad sugars” your kids eat while still providing delicious, satisfying meals and snacks by doing a number of things:
1. Don’t buy snacks or prepared foods with added sugar. If there is sugary food in your home, your kids will find it, even if you hide it in the oven. Avoiding buying snacks like cookies and cake are obvious ways to cut sugar, but look at the lables of even healthier sounding snacks to make sure there are no added sugars. Helping your kids kick the added-sugar habit is much easier when you are eating healthy, too.
2. Provide plenty of healthy snacks. Most of the time when people crave sugar, it is because they are hungry, and their bodies need a quick boast of energy. Choosing low-fat and no sugar-added snacks to satisfy hunger pangs, and provide needed protein can reduce the desire for sugary sweets. Great choices are low-fat cheese and salt-free pretzels, and
3. Encourage kids to drink more water. When your kids are thirsty, giving them water is the healthiest option. Sodas and even fruit juices can have excessive amounts of added sugars. When you do serve fruit juice to your children, diluting the juice with water can reduce the amount of sugar they drink without affecting the taste too much.
Controlling the amount of bad sugar your kids eat, and making sure they practice good oral hygiene will make a big difference in the health of your kids’ smiles.