Advocating wellness is our primary mission, and nothing is more sacred to us than good nutrition. What our children will eat will affect them for the rest of their lives.
The old age “you are what you eat” is profoundly true. If this sounds like grandstanding consider this: almost all cancers are linked in some manner to nutrition. Links to heart disease, mental prowess, allergies, fertility, immune function and yes bones and teeth are all connected to the food our children will eat. With our busy lives, full schedules, savvy advertising from food processors (directed to our unsuspecting children) and the associated peer pressure of today’s treat culture, its no small wonder that the incidence of juvenile diabetes and obesity continues to soar over time. The trend is not pretty!
One generation ago most of us ate three square meals a day. Today processed and fast food sales have doubled over the past twenty years meaning that our children are eating more and more chemicals. We have adopted a diet where children's’ food is a market segment of its own, with imaginative animal shapes and exotic colors. Pizzas, hot dogs, burgers, fruit roll ups, chips, cookies, chicken nuggets, candied yogurt and bright colored ketchups are marketing exercises aimed to boost sales with little nutritional value to offer. It is now estimated that fifty percent of us don’t eat a single portion of fruit per day and less than twenty-five percent of us eat the daily recommendation of five portions of fruit and vegetables.
From a dental perspective good nutrition is important but good nutrition alone doesn’t guarantee healthy, cavity resistant teeth. Other factors include regular hygiene care, the appropriate fluoride and sealants on back molars.
Carbohydrates from fruit, starches and candies are consumed in the mouth by bacteria which in turn produce acids that lead to tooth decay. Bacteria are not fussy; it is irrelevant whether the carbohydrates come from sugars or starches, like bread and crackers.
So candies are not measurably worse than fruit or a glass of juice. In fact new data suggest that crackers and cookies are more cariogenic (cavity producing) than say a lollipop because the crumbs from cookies and crackers stay in the mouth longer. This issue is described as retentiveness. Cooked starches stay longer in the mouth than caramels and cola, because it take hours for these acid producing bacteria to break these complex foodstuffs into their constituent sugars.
Another factor is frequency, where bacteria are quite active for up to thirty minutes after eating-regardless of the size of the meal or snack. So frequent eating also leads to a higher incidence of tooth decay. Practices like sipping on a cola all day long or sucking on throat lozenges can provoke prolonged exposure to cavity producing acids.
- Since 1970 the incidence of childhood obesity has doubled, with the greatest increase in the past ten years.
- Sadly one in six teenagers shows significant early signs of heart disease.
- Increased incidence of learning difficulties.
- The World Cancer Research Fund claims that between thirty to forty percent of cancers may be caused by dietary factors.
- Sperm count on average is dropping 1.5% per year and experts are predicting a mass infertility epidemic by the middle of the 21st century.
- Heart disease is present in some form in 20% of the children population.
- Osteoporosis studies indicate that carbonated drinks are robbing bones of calcium and other minerals necessary to maintain bone mass. Today, school programs substitute milk for cola as a portion of the sales goes towards school revenues.
- Besides processed and junk foods possessing little nutritive value they also contain a tremendous number of chemicals linked to an equally high number of illnesses and diseases. Many of these chemicals act as anti-nutrients that serve to block the body’s ability to absorb the very elements children need to grow healthy and strong.
- A balanced diet of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and trace elements coupled with water and fiber ensures that our children will heal, grow and develop at their optimal potential.
- Seek out a nutritionist for consultation and support.
- Read “Natural Health Care for Children” by Karen Sullivan M.D.
Good eating habits and food preferences are established in childhood.
Poor nutrition can eventually lead to poor health, obesity, tooth decay, and periodontal disease. Additionally when and how often a child eats may also adversely affect their teeth.
Bacteria in the mouth metabolize carbohydrates and simple sugars from the left over food debris and form acid, which decays teeth. It takes approximately 20 minutes for saliva to wash away this damaging acid, and so if your child is frequently snacking there will be a acidic environment for the teeth.
Carbohydrates, which are ultimately broken down to simple sugars may come in many hidden forms. Potato chips and pretzels for example are as cavity as lollipops.
The longer food can hang onto the surface of a tooth the greater the likelihood of forming cavities.
Foods like granola bars. Potato chips, pretzels, salted and peanut butter crackers, and cookies are the hang time champs. First runner up are figs, jelly beans, doughnuts and raisins. Followed by white bread, caramels and cream filled pastries.
- Your child’s dental health depends less on what they eat and more on how often they eat it. Overall well being however requires a well balanced diet.
- Most foods contain sugars or starches that enable bacteria in dental plaque to produce acids. These acids demineralize tooth structure which leads to cavities.
- High Carbohydrate-Cavity Causing Foods:
- Crème-filled sandwich cookies
- Dried figs or granola bars
- Jelly beans
- Oatmeal or peanut butter cookies
- Plain doughnuts
- Potato chips and pretzels
- Puffed oat cereal
- To the cavity causing bacteria in the mouth, sugars are all the same, whether natural or processed the same. Therefore all types of sugars and the foods that contain them can play a role in tooth decay.
- Cooked starches can lead to cavities just as sugars can. In fact crackers, cookies, pretzels and potato chips take longer to clear the mouth than sugars do. So the risk to decay is greater.
- The bacteria levels in the mouth can’t discern the difference in the amount of sugar in food. For example a sip of a cola can start the same mega acid attack as eating a whole apple pie.
- A food with sugar or starch is safer for teeth if it is eaten with a meal, not as a snack.
- Snacks served no more than three or four times a day should contribute to the overall nutrition of the child. Healthy snack foods include; cheese, vegetables, fruit and yogurt.
- A child that sips on apple juice all day long or continuously sucks on a rock candy every few minutes to keep it longer runs a higher risk of developing tooth decay.
- Serve cheese for lunch or as a snack. Cheddar, Monterey Jack and Swiss, triggers the flow of saliva that helps wash foods particles away from teeth.
- Pack milk or water instead of juice or soda.
- Chewing sugarless gum can help reduce the risk of cavities and interferes with the metabolism of acid producing bacteria. Gum helps dislodge some of the food stuck in your child’s teeth, but it also increases saliva which helps buffer the acids in your child’s mouth. The ingredient “xylitol” in?sugarless chewing gum also interferes with the metabolism of acid producing bacteria.
- Give your child healthy snack foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables and cheeses.
- Buy foods that are sugar-free or unsweetened.
- Serve sugary or starchy foods with meals instead of as a snack.
- Avoid sticky foods unless your child can have their teeth brushed soon after eating.
- Make sure your child’s teeth are brushed after snacks or at a minimum they should rinse their mouth with water a few times.
- Encourage your child to chose xylitol-sweetened or sugar-free gum.
- Do not give your child a bottle with any juice or milk at bedtime.
- Only water should be given.
All things being equal if your child brushes regularly and gets sufficient fluoride, there’s nothing wrong with snaking sensibly. Even if it includes the occasional candy! Especially if your child follows our five point preventive plan of:
1. Effectively brushing at least twice daily and flossing once daily
2. Sufficient fluoride
3. Receiving sealants on most permanent teeth
4. Seeing us at Kids Dental regularly
5. Having a healthy diet