Now more than ever, kids are faced with a bewildering array of food choices:from fresh produce to sugar-laden processed convenience meals and snack foods. What children eat and when they eat it may affect not only their general health but also their oral health.
Americans are consuming foods and drinks high in sugar and starches more often and in larger portions than ever before. It's clear that "junk" foods and drinks gradually have replaced nutritious beverages and foods for many people. For example, the average teenage boy in the U.S. consumes 81 gallons of soft drinks each year! A steady diet of sugary foods and drinks can ruin teeth, especially among those who snack throughout the day. Common activities may contribute to the tendency toward tooth decay. These include grazing habitually on foods with minimal nutritional value, and frequently sipping on sugary sodas and sports drinks.
When sugar is consumed over and over again in small, often hidden amounts, the harmful effect on teeth can be dramatic. Sugar on teeth provides food for bacteria, which produce acid. The acid in turn can eat away the enamel on teeth.
Almost all foods have some type of sugar that cannot and should not be eliminated from our diets. Many of these foods contain important nutrients and add enjoyment to eating. But there is a risk for tooth decay from a diet high in sugars and starches. Starches can be found in everything from bread to pretzels to salad dressing, so read labels and plan carefully for a balanced, nutritious diet for you and your children.
Reduce your children's risk of tooth decay:
-Sugary foods and drinks should be consumed with meals. Saliva production increases during meals and helps neutralize acids and eliminates food particles from the mouth.
-Limit between-meal snacks substituting more nutritious options when possible.
-Monitor beverage consumption. Instead of soft drinks, children should also choose water or low fat milk.
-Help your child develop good brushing and flossing habits.
-Schedule regular dental visits.
February is National Children's Dental Health Month. Please make sure your child is current in regards to their preventive maintenance.