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Eat Right for Healthy Teeth

Your children’s eating patterns and food choices affect their risk for tooth decay. Tooth decay occurs when plaque in the mouth comes into contact with sugar present in foods and produces acids that attack tooth enamel. After many attacks, the enamel breaks down and a cavity forms.

Most foods we eat contain some form of sugar. That doesn’t mean your child has to avoid them entirely, in fact, the opposite is true. Milk contains sugar, yet it is an essential source of calcium, necessary for strong bones and teeth. Fruits and vegetables also contain varying amounts of sugar, but they also provide many important vitamins and minerals. When choosing foods for your family, read food labels and avoid products with added sugars, such as candy, cookies, and other sweets. A balanced diet based on the Food Guide Pyramid will give your child the nutrition needed for healthy teeth and gums.

Here are some more ways to keep your child’s teeth in tip-top condition:

  • Limit snack times during the day. When kids do have snacks, offer them nutritious ones that are low in added sugar.

  • Don’t put a young child to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, or juice. Just use water, instead.

  • Limit juice consumption to 4 to 6 ounces per day for kids ages 1 to 6 and 8 to 12 ounces for kids ages 7 to 18.

If you live in an area where the water supply is not fluoridated, talk with your child’s dentist about fluoride supplements.

“Diet and Dental Health.” Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/d/diet-and-dental-health. Accessed 2013.

“Decay.” Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/d/decay. Accessed 2013.

“Diet and Snacking.”American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. http://d27vj430nutdmd.cloudfront.net/17243/64402/64402.5.pdf. Accessed 2013.

“Age-appropriate diet for children.” Medline Plus, U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, September 21, 2011. www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002455.htm Accessed 2013.

“Oral Health.” HealthyChildren.org, American Academy of Pediatrics, February 2007. http://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/oral-health/Pages/default.aspx. Accessed 2013.

“Policy Statement: The Use and Misuse of Fruit Juice in Pediatrics.” American Academy of Pediatrics, February 1, 2007. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/107/5/1210.full Accessed 2013.

“Current Policies 2012.” American Dental Association.http://www.ada.org/sections/about/pdfs/doc_policies.pdf. Accessed 2013.

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