Most people know that sugar and sticky sweets can be bad for their children’s teeth. They may even be familiar with some of the other worst foods that wreak havoc on deciduous (baby teeth) and permanent teeth. These include things like dried and acidic fruits and even pickles which are known to erode enamel.
While you make your best efforts to keep your kids away from soda and candy, it’s also a good idea to help them eat more of the foods that support good dental health. These foods actually help clean your children’s teeth and provide the vitamins and probiotics that kids need to maintain strong immune systems and keep tooth decay at bay. Most of them can be incorporated into balanced meals, and others can serve as healthy snacks.
1. Unsweetened dairy products
A multitude of dairy products are perfect for strengthening your children’s oral health while giving them a snack they actually enjoy. Milk, and all other dairy products, provide calcium, a mineral that is vital to preventing weak bones and tooth decay. Certain yogurts contain high amounts of probiotics which help improve gut health, fortify the immune system, and treat some oral diseases. Cheeses are among the most beneficial dairy products as they simultaneously provide calcium, stimulate saliva to neutralize acids, reduce bacteria, and create a protective shield around teeth.
2. Fibrous fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber are particularly beneficial for teeth as well as overall health. Many of these foods are high in water content, and this helps to stimulate saliva production and rinse the mouth out of any natural sugars and food particles. The fiber in fruits and vegetables like apples, celery, and carrots, further works to scrub the teeth and remove sugars and stains that lead to cavities and discoloration. These types of foods are also high in vitamins and minerals that are essential to oral health. Apples, for example, are high in vitamin C which supports gum health while carrots are high in Vitamin A.
3. Mixed nuts
Nuts make a healthy snack for several reasons. Their abrasive quality helps keep teeth and gums clean, and the chewing required to break them down stimulates the production of saliva, neutralizing cavity causing bacteria. Certain nuts also provide vitamins and minerals that support tooth and gum health. Peanuts contain plenty of calcium and vitamin D, making them one of the best tooth-friendly snacks. Almonds and walnuts are also a great source of calcium and go perfectly with salads, fish dishes, and yogurts. Nuts of all varieties, including hazelnuts, pistachios, and pecans, are also high in protein and healthy fats that help keep children in good health.
4. Herbal Teas
You may not be enthusiastic about giving your child caffeinated teas and coffee, but caffeine-free herbal teas can benefit your child’s dental health. Many teas contain beneficial antioxidants that impede plaque, cavities, and gum disease. These include chamomile, lavender, hibiscus, peppermint, and lemon grass teas. In addition to supporting oral health and treating bad breath, chamomile and lavender can help calm hyperactive children and get them ready for bedtime. Hibiscus tea provides a great source of vitamin C, while peppermint and lemon grass aid digestion and can sooth an upset stomach.
5. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens such as kale, spinach, bok choy, chard, and collards greens, are high in calcium, vitamin B-6, and vitamins A and C. The nutritional qualities of these vegetables, especially calcium, support strong bones and fortify teeth. These greens also provide other essential nutrients, like iron and magnesium, that keep kids healthy as they develop. Getting them to eat their greens at a young age will help them establish and maintain better eating habits throughout their lives. Try incorporating them into salads, or make crispy kale chips that your kids won’t be able to resist.
In addition to eliminating the bad foods, like sugary sodas, candy bars, and dried fruit, it’s important to encourage your children to eat foods that are good for their oral health. Pack them healthy snacks like apples and almonds, introduce them to a variety of herbal teas, and include leafy greens or dairy products in every home-cooked meal. Be sure to demonstrate healthy eating habits by eating these foods yourself and by maintaining proper oral hygiene.