The Christmas season brings lots of delicious, festive foods, many of which are high in sugar and carbohydrates. What your child eats and how often they eat are important factors in maintaining good oral health and preventing cavities. Changes in your mouth begin as soon as you eat certain foods. The more often you eat and snack, the more frequently you are exposing your teeth to the cycle of decay. But you can help to keep your child’s teeth happy with healthy food habits during the festive season.
Diet Related Disease
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), teeth are most susceptible to decay soon after they erupt, so the peak ages for cavities are 2 – 5 years of age. Tooth decay and dental cavities are diet related diseases, which is why it is vital that a healthy, balanced diet is established early in life. Consuming sweet foods and drinks between meals is a major cause of tooth decay, because there is no period for teeth to recover. The bacteria in your mouth convert sugars and carbohydrates into acids, which attack the tooth enamel and start the process of decay. The more often you child consume sweet foods and drinks, the higher their risk of tooth decay.
Healthy Foods and Drinks For Teeth
Since 1990, the WHO has recommended that the intake of “free sugars” should be less than 10% of total energy (calorie) intake. Free sugars are sugars that are added to foods by the manufacturer, cook, or consumer; as well as those naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates. For the benefit of your child’s mouth and teeth, the best choices of foods include cheeses, nuts and chicken or other meats. These foods are thought to protect tooth enamel by providing teeth with the calcium they need to replace lost enamel.
Other healthy food choices include crunchy fruits and vegetables, such as apples and carrots. These have a high water content, which dilutes the effects of the sugars they contain. They also stimulate the flow of saliva, which helps to protect against tooth decay by washing away food particles. Acidic foods, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, and lemons, should be eaten as part of a larger meal to minimise the effects of the acid they contain. Choose fluoridated tap water and plain milk for beverages instead of soft drinks, juice or cordial.
Tips For Maintaining Healthy Teeth During Christmas
For good dental health, keep these tips in mind when choosing meals and snacks for your child:
• Eat a variety of foods from each major food group
• Limit sweet foods and consume them during meal times rather than between meals.
• Limit fruit juices, which contain natural sugars which can lead to tooth decay.
• Choose fresh fruit, as dried fruit will leave a sticky residue on the teeth.
• Eat a piece of cheese after consuming sweet or acidic food as dairy products assist in reversing the decay process.
• For more advice on how to protect your child’s teeth from decay this festive season, speak to your dentist.