A good diet both during pregnancy and a child’s first years of life is the foundation for the future of a child’s oral health.
Medical Advisor: Juan López Artehaga – Dentist
Specialist in Cosmetic Dentistry and Oral Rehabilitation
It is not just a coincidence that the first teeth to erupt in babies’ mouths are called “milk teeth.” Calcium, the main nutrient in milk, is key to forming a strong smile at the beginning of life, paving the way for permanent teeth.
“The foods that make teeth strong take effect when the teeth are coming in. Therefore, in most cases, good breastfeeding practices often make for strong milk teeth,” explains Juan López Artehaga, a dentist that specializes in Cosmetic Dentistry and Oral Rehabilitation.
As our expert explains, the 4th National Oral Health Study of the Ministry of Health states that in addition to nourishing babies and building their immune systems, breastmilk helps the muscles, bones and tissues that form the face, mouth and craniofacial system to develop properly. The Ministry of Health therefore recommends that babies be breastfed exclusively during their first six months of life.
Later, when it is time for complementary feeding, everything the children eat will affect how their teeth develop, making it necessary to get them used to eating solid foods that stimulate the eruption of their temporary teeth. “Even whole fruits or vegetables – whole apples or large pieces of carrots, for example,” are included in the Ministry of Health’s guidelines.
On average, children finish getting their baby teeth in at age three. During this time, and until their permanent teeth emerge, eating healthy should continue to be a priority to strengthen the teeth.
“A proper diet helps to repair tooth tissue and the supporting tissues (the gums) and keeps them strong, helping protect the teeth from the daily attack of harmful substances,” our specialist explains.
The consumption of dairy products, as well as fruits and vegetables, is important during this period, as these foods contain vitamins and minerals that help build healthy and strong smiles. “Calcium, one of the most important nutrients, is found in dairy products, fish (salmon and sardines) and in green vegetables (broccoli and spinach),” López Artehaga states.
Fruits and vegetables
In general, the consumption of fruits and vegetables helps keep teeth healthy throughout all stages of life. For good health, including oral health, the WHO recommends eating five servings of these foods a day along with a balanced diet of protein, grains, cereals, fat and sugar.
As our expert points out, water consumption also has an impact on healthy teeth. “Water keeps the teeth hydrated and makes saliva form. A significant decrease in saliva increases the occurrence of cavities.”
Similarly, López recommends eating foods that are beneficial to the gums such as vitamin C, which, among other fruits, is found in oranges, melons, mangoes and papayas.
In addition to encouraging children at home to eat foods that strengthen and protect their smiles, parents should also teach basic oral hygiene habits such as brushing and flossing, as well as make sure they see the dentist twice a year.
Certain foods are harmful to our oral health, especially those high in sugar, starch and fat. “Eating any amount of food in excess and a lack of proper oral hygiene causes tooth decay and leads to plaque build-up. Eating too many citrus fruits can demineralize tooth enamel and cause tooth sensitivity. Chewing ice or hard foods can damage your gums or fracture your teeth,” López states.
Drinking too much coffee, tea or beverages with coloring agents (such as soda, red wine or rosé wine) affects the pigmentation of the teeth. “The main way to prevent stains is by doing a proper brushing and flossing after drinking these beverages, and by getting regular deep cleanings with the dentist every six months,” our specialist explains.