Despite widespread use of fluoride and other advances in oral health, cavities are still very common, especially among children. The CDC says that more than half of kids under age 8 have had a cavity in at least one baby tooth, and more than half of kids ages 12-19 have had one or more cavities in their “adult” teeth.

Proper brushing and flossing techniques and twice-yearly dental exams are very important for keeping cavities and other oral health problems at bay. But, what a lot of parents don’t realize is that their child’s eating habits influence their oral health, too.

At Dental Arts of Hoboken in Hoboken, New Jersey, Michael Moawad, DMD, and Jessica Listwa, DMD, offer comprehensive pediatric dentistry treatments for kids of all ages. That includes education about what foods are good for their teeth and what foods can actually increase their risk for oral health problems. In this post, they explain how you can help your child eat well for better oral health.

Four tooth-healthy foods

Before delving into the “bad guys” of oral health, here are four foods you can add to your child’s diet that can actually promote healthy teeth and gums — and set the stage for a lifetime of good eating habits, too.

1. Raw fruits and vegetables

Kids crave sweets, but instead of giving them cookies and candy, try giving them fresh fruit instead. Not only is it sweet, but the fiber from fresh fruit can help their digestive system, too. Plus, crunchy fruits, such as apples, can help remove plaque from tooth surfaces.

Crunchy vegetables can also help keep plaque at bay. Try giving them carrots, celery sticks, or broccoli florets. And for kids who aren’t crazy about raw veggies, try giving them some peanut butter or yogurt to dip their veggies into. These foods are delicious and provide protein and calcium, too.

2. Water

Water contains no calories, no sugars, and no acids, which makes it a tooth-friendly way to quench your child’s thirst. Furthermore, some communities fluoridate their water, which can help your child maintain healthy enamel with every sip. Let your child choose a water bottle to carry with them, so they can always have a healthy beverage on hand.

3. Cheese, milk, and other dairy products

Dairy products are chock full of calcium, which is a mineral that plays an essential role in keeping teeth strong and healthy. Plus, dairy products help neutralize acids in the mouth, which can help reduce the risks for acid erosion and tooth decay.

4. Nuts

Nuts are great sources of protein and minerals, which are essential for building healthy teeth and gums. They’re also a great portable snack that can be carried in a backpack or pocket. Opt for salt-free nuts to ensure your child gets all the benefits without overloading on sodium.

Four foods to avoid

Here are four items (or categories) to leave off your future grocery-shopping lists.

1. Candy and other sweets

Your child loves sweets, and so do the bacteria that cause tooth decay. Limiting the amount of sweets they eat can help keep harmful bacteria under control. And, if you do give your child sweets here and there, avoid giving them sweets that linger, such as hard candies or lollipops. And stay away from sticky toffee and hard peanut brittle, too.

2. Starchy foods

Soft bread, white pasta, and potato chips tend to stick to tooth surfaces and lodge between teeth. These foods contain carbs (sugars) that feed bacteria and increase the risk for tooth decay.

3. Sports drinks and other sweetened beverages

Sodas, fruit drinks, sports drinks, and any beverages with added sugar are among the worst culprits when it comes to causing cavities and other oral health problems. These beverages soak your child’s teeth in sugars, giving bacteria plenty of opportunity to cause decay.

Beverages that contain a lot of acids are the worst of the bunch, since these acids can slowly eat away at tooth enamel, which can leave your child’s teeth prone to decay and other problems.

4. Sticky foods

Caramels, gummy candies, and jelly beans are both sweet and sticky, so they should be avoided. But, there is one item on this list that might not be so obvious — dried fruit. Although it might seem like a healthy alternative to sweets, dried fruit is also sticky, and that means its sugars stick around longer, too. Plus, dried fruit — and other sticky foods — can get lodged between teeth in areas where a toothbrush can’t reach.

Give your child a lifetime of healthy smiles

Helping your child develop healthy eating habits is just one way you can give them the gift of good oral health — now and during their adult years. To learn more tips or to schedule a checkup for your child, call 201-429-3641 or request an appointment online with the team at Dental Arts of Hoboken today.

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