Little giants 4 April, 2017 Isabel Vallejo
Some foods are better than others for children’s teeth. Keep this in mind when preparing their school snacks or lunches.
Medical Advisor Claudia Riveros
Pediatric dentist, practitioner at Coomeva Private Healthcare
Taking a good lunch or snack to school is important for meeting the caloric demands that growing children require throughout a long school day, they are also important to help them achieve good oral health, which includes preventing cavities, gum disease, tooth decay and TMJ disorders (these disorders affect the temporal bones and mandibula), among others.
These foods should be rich in protein, vitamins A, C and D and in minerals such as calcium. The recommendation is that they eat mostly snacks that are hard in texture, dry and full of fiber as they have an important role in the development of the jaw. For example, it is important to consume nuts and seeds such walnuts, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts and peanuts as well as dried fruits with natural sugars such as cranberries, raisins, plums, dates, figs, apricots and peaches. It is also important to include foods such as raw carrots, coconut and celery sticks. See also Get children involved in their nutrition.
Drinking water is also important, as it helps us staying hydrated. This promotes healthy gums and stimulates the production of saliva, which neutralizes bacteria. Cheese is rich in calcium and phosphorus, minerals that are vital to dental health and that help balance the mouth’s pH in addition to stimulating the saliva production. Dairy products contain calcium, phosphates and vitamin D, which are all also important to dental health. See also Proper nutrition for school-age children.
Fruits, vegetables and grains that are rich in fiber such as bananas, apples, pears, mandarins, peaches, plums and lettuce stimulate the flow of saliva, which dilute the sugars and acids in foods.
Foods to avoid
Foods that do not benefit dental health include carbohydrates, and when eaten in excess, sugars and acids. The pediatric dentist, Claudia Riveros, explains that carbohydrates are considered to be cariogenic foods (cavity-inducing foods). She also explains that the bacteria produced by cavities are responsible for taking sugars and metabolizing them to produce acids that are responsible for demineralizing the structure of the teeth.
The excess consumption of acidic foods dissolves tooth enamel, which can lead to the irreversible loss of tooth structure and to sensitivity, and can lead to losing the normal anatomic shape of the tooth. In extreme situations, the dental pulp can become exposed and the vitality of the tooth can be lost, a condition known as tooth decay.
Sugars are found in sweets, breads, cookies, soda, boxed juices and in tea. Acids, on the other hand, are found mostly in lime and lemon, as well as in mango biche (sliced unripe mango with lime and salt) among other foods.
Last, Riveros remarks that one of the best methods for developing good eating habits is for the entire family to eat healthy, as children are good at imitating what others do.
Avoiding the frequent consumption of cariogenic foods, practicing dental hygiene on a daily basis and seeing your dentist regularly will also significantly reduce children’s chances of getting cavities and gum disease •
Make a healthy weekly schedule
Pediatric dentist Claudia Riveros suggests packing the following school snacks that promote having healthy teeth:
- Monday: Natural soursop juice and peanuts with raisins.
- Tuesday: Greek yogurt with chunks of strawberries, a granola bar or an individual package of cereal.
- Wednesday: Mini carrots and celery sticks with natural orange juice and fiber-rich crackers.
- Thursday: Apples with seedless dried plums and dried cranberries, and a quinoa-oat smoothie or yogurt.
- Friday: Yogurt, fiber-rich crackers, raisins, fresh cut strawberries packed in a container and a bottle of water.
Moderate your sugar intake
According to the American Dietetic Association, sugar should not exceed 10% of your daily calorie intake. If the daily required amount for child is 1000 calories, only 100 should come from sugar. For example, an eight-ounce juice box contains about 25 grams of sugar, the equivalent of 100 calories. By consuming just one serving of juice, this meets the daily allotted amount. It is also important to review children’s nutritional needs and what their caloric intake should be with a nutritionist.