How Does Diet Affect Your Child's Teeth

Your child’s teeth do more than just give them a cute smile – teeth help your child eat their favorite foods and speak clearly. A child’s primary teeth, or baby teeth, also serve as “placeholders” for their permanent teeth. 

A number of conditions, such as cavities, can cause dental problems in kids. Cavities are the most common chronic disease in children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, more than half of American kids ages 6 to 8 have had a cavity in at least one of their baby teeth and more than half of adolescents ages 12 to 19 have developed a cavity in at least one of their permanent teeth. Also known as dental caries, cavities can cause infections, pain and even the loss of a tooth. 

Cavities are holes in your child’s teeth. These holes start as the result of damage to the surface of teeth, also known as tooth decay. Tooth decay starts when bacteria in your child’s mouth surrounds their teeth and gums. These bacteria feed on the sugar in food and beverages; as they feed, the bacteria produce acid that can eat away at tooth enamel that protects your child’s teeth. 

While it is more common in adults, gum disease is also a problem for some children. Gum disease starts when bacteria mixes with saliva and other substances to create a clear film, known as plaque, which sticks to the surface of teeth and gums. Your child’s gums react to the presence of plaque by swelling up, becoming sensitive, and even bleeding in what dentists refer to as gingivitis, which is an early form of gum disease. Left unaddressed, gingivitis can turn into the more serious form of gum disease, known as periodontal disease. 

Fortunately, cavities and gum disease are preventable – and eating a healthy diet can help prevent these problems and promote dental health in many other ways.

Muskego Dentist Discusses the Connection between Diet and Your Child’s Teeth

Our dentist in Muskego loves to help parents and kids look for new ways to keep their teeth healthy – many patients are surprised to learn that there is a link between the food they eat and the health of their teeth. 

Certain foods are good for your child’s teeth

Some foods are good for your child’s dental health. For example, crunchy foods can trigger the production of saliva, which rinses bacteria, sugar and food particles, and plaque from the surface of your child’s teeth and gums. Encourage your child to eat the following crunchy foods during meals and snacks:

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli 

Sucking on sugarless candy or chewing sugar-free gum can also stimulate saliva production. 

Some foods support your child’s immune system, which helps prevent and fight infections throughout their body – and in their mouths. The immune system can help stop early stages of gum infections from progressing to advanced stages of gum disease. 

Kid-friendly immune-boosting foods include:

  • Citrus fruits, including oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit
  • Ginger
  • Yogurt
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almonds

A good diet gives your child’s body the nutrients it needs to grow strong, healthy teeth

A growing body relies on vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. The calcium in milk and other dairy products helps harden tooth enamel and strengthen the bone that holds your child’s teeth securely in their jaw; phosphorus works with calcium to create strong enamel. Vitamin D helps your child’s body absorb calcium, potassium builds bone density, vitamin K works like a shield to protect tooth enamel, vitamin A supports the immune system, and vitamin C strengthens gum tissue and protects against gingivitis. 

For healthy teeth, offer the following nutrient-rich foods to your child:

  • Milk, cheese and yogurt for calcium
  • Fatty fish for vitamin D
  • Seafood for phosphorus
  • Bananas for potassium
  • Leafy greens and broccoli for vitamin K
  • Citrus fruits for vitamin C
  • Fish, egg yolks, and liver for vitamin A

Eating a lot of sugar increases your child’s risk of cavities

The bacteria in your child’s mouth reacts with sugar to cause tooth decay and cavities. Sugary foods with a sticky consistency are especially problematic, as the sugar sticks to your child’s teeth and stay there for a long time. 

Sugary foods to avoid include:

  • Cereals
  • Candy
  • Chocolate
  • Cookies
  • Soda

Fruit and other naturally-sweet foods are okay in moderation, but be careful with naturally-sticky sweets, such as honey and maple syrup.

For more information about how diet affects your child’s teeth, consult with our Muskego dentist. We can help you review your child’s diet and look for new ways to keep your child’s teeth as healthy as possible.

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