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The impact your child’s food and drink choices (yes, even the healthy ones!) have on their teeth

Baby Yum Yum - The impact your childs food and drink choices yes even the healthy ones have on their teeth
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By now we all know that sugar isn’t good for the health of your child’s teeth. We also know that nobody lives in a perfect world, and to keep your child away from all sugars is virtually impossible. All we can do is to try our best for their diet to be as healthy as possible, right? But even healthy food choices can be detrimental to the health of your child’s teeth. Let’s discuss a few of the choices regarding food and drinks for our children and see what impact they have on the health of our children’s teeth.

How acidic fruits affect teeth

Some fruits are more acidic than others. When we talk about acidic fruits, we typically think of oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes. Although high in Vitamin C to help build a healthy immune system, helping to prevent iron deficiency and protect your memory as you get older, the high levels of acid will contribute to enamel erosion.

Therefore, let your child have them in moderation. Never brush your child’s teeth after consuming acidic food or drinks, but allow the flow of saliva to dilute the acid. The last thing you want is to rub that acid into the enamel of the teeth with a toothbrush.

How fruit & vegetables affect teeth

These are filled with water and fibre that help balance sugars and stimulate saliva production, which in turn washes away harmful acids and food particles.

The friction that is created by hard fruits and raw vegetables create an excellent natural cleaning action. By just chewing these types of fruits and raw vegetables, a great amount of plaque is removed. Hence the saying: “an apple a day keeps the dentist away!”

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How dried fruit affects teeth

Some of these might be labeled “healthy” and even “organic”, but fruits lose water as they dry and turn into something that resembles candy that’s been made in a lab. The result is – sticky natural candy that has lost a lot of nutrients and will now get stuck between, and in the grooves of, the teeth. This environment is a feast for bacteria, which will use the sugar to form acid to attack the teeth and causes demineralisation. The end result is, of course, tooth decay.

How cheese & dairy affect teeth

These are low in sugar and high in protein – it’s also packed with calcium and phosphates. It helps put back minerals into the teeth and in doing so, creates excellent protection of the teeth against acid-forming bacteria.

How bread, potato chips & pasta affect teeth

If these starchy foods are not brushed away quickly, they get converted into sugar. Because of the texture, they easily get stuck between the teeth. As with all sugary foods, left there for some time, they will be utilised by bacteria to form acid that will ultimately be responsible for tooth decay. Therefore it is a good idea to brush after a meal containing starch. Keep in mind that less refined carbohydrates are not as easily broken down into sugar.

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How green & black tea affect teeth

These contain polyphenols, which interact with plaque, and are responsible for killing and/or slowing down the growth of bacteria and the formation of the acid being produced by them.

How sports drinks affect teeth

These so-called energy drinks are loaded with carbohydrates and sugar – two of the main, and powerful, ingredients used by bacteria to form acid that will attack the tooth enamel. When we look at how energetic children are and how they are forever running, jumping and playing around, it might be a good idea to start thinking if it’s really necessary for our children to consume these drinks as refreshments. Are they not rather meant for athletes that need a burst of energy while performing a sports activity?

How carbonated drinks affect teeth

These types of drinks contain an enormous amount of sugar as well as phosphoric- and citric acid. Therefore even sugar-free carbonated drinks cause dental erosion, which leads to tooth sensitivity, chalky appearance, pitting in teeth and opacity changes. Carbonated drinks enable plaque to produce more acid than sugar alone. It also dries out the mouth.

A dry mouth is a sign that there is less saliva present. Saliva carries antibacterial- and protective properties. So less saliva also means a bigger risk for decay. But unlike with carbohydrate intake, it’s not a good idea to brush your teeth after drinking a carbonated drink. The high volumes of acid present in the mouth need to be diluted by saliva for a while, otherwise all that acid is getting rubbed into the enamel by the toothbrush.

Lastly, although less important when we consider the health of the teeth, carbonated drinks are also responsible for staining of the tooth enamel.

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How sugarless chewing gum affects teeth

As mentioned before, we love the benefit of lots of saliva. Not only do we get protective- and antibacterial properties from it, but it also washes away food particles and bacteria. By chewing gum (only for a few minutes at a time) we will increase the flow rate of saliva as well as the amount and quality of saliva. A mouth full of saliva is by far a lot healthier than a dry mouth.

How sticky candies affect teeth vs chocolate

Hard-boiled sweets are very hard to dissolve and be washed away once chewed and stick into the grooves of the teeth (especially the molars). But chocolate for instance, gets dissolved and washed away a lot quicker, making it a lesser evil when it comes to the health of the teeth.

How foods with fluoride affect teeth

We are aware of the great benefit of fluoride – it makes the teeth more resistant to decay. Luckily for us, nature knows what’s good for us and therefore fluoride is naturally present in water.  It is also present in commercially prepared foods like poultry products, seafood, tea and powdered cereals.

How lean protein affects teeth

Meat, fish, milk and eggs are rich in phosphorus and – together with calcium – are responsible for strengthening the teeth and bones.

How fruit juice affects teeth

One would think that fruit juice is healthier than a carbonated drink. But fruit juice is much higher in sugar than whole fruit and contains hardly any fibre, which means the body absorbs the sugar much quicker. When we think about the health of a child’s teeth, ideally the only 2 drinks that should be consumed by a toddler are milk and water.

Fruit juice should only occasionally be given to a child, and then the following should be kept in mind. It has to be 100% fruit juice containing NO ADDED SUGAR. Ideally it should be diluted with water. It should be given at meal times only. And lastly, it should be given in a cup – definitely not a baby bottle that would allow the child to slowly sip on it.

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How eating nuts affects teeth

These are high in protein and minerals and low in carbohydrates, so there’s no added risk for tooth decay. Apart from the health benefits of chewing these wholesome snacks, it will also increase the flow of saliva and therefore reduce the risk of decay.

How drinking water affects teeth

As we know, drinking lots of water is not only good for our general health, but also for the teeth. Not only is it washing away the food particles and bacteria, but the fluoride that is naturally present in water will also make the teeth resistant to decay.

If only bottled water is consumed, make sure you get enough fluoride from other sources as the fluoride levels in bottled water might not be sufficient to reduce the risk of tooth decay.

How snacking between meals affects teeth

Keep these to the minimum. Every time you eat, the pH (average pH is 6.7) of the mouth drops. Every time that the pH drops, it will take longer to restore the pH balance. It is at a low pH (5.5) that demineralization starts occurring. Therefore it is better to eat sugary treats together with your main meal. When we eat, the saliva flow increases. Not only does this dilute the sugar and/or acid, but it also washes away food particles that might get stuck between the teeth.

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