Healthy Diet, Healthy Teeth

A Message from Dr. Bevin Malley, Charlotte NC Pediatric Dentist

The effect of good nutrition on a child’s teeth begins when the child is in the womb. Tooth development occurs during the second trimester of pregnancy, and healthy development depends on the mother having a well balanced diet, including adequate amounts of calcium, phosphorous, protein, and Vitamins A, C and D.

The tooth enamel that begins to form during pregnancy does not complete hardening until several months after a child is born. Breast milk or baby formula is the source of the essential nutrients during these critical months.

Once teeth have erupted through the gums and are exposed in your child’s mouth, maintaining a healthy environment in the mouth is important for maintaining healthy tooth enamel. A healthy oral environment is dependent on good nutrition. Here’s why.

Bacteria in the mouth thrive on starches and sugars left on the teeth. Many foods are full of these carbohydrates, and when carbohydrates stay on teeth for a length of time, a film of bacteria called “plaque” forms on the surface of the teeth and produces an acid that erodes tooth enamel. Over time, this acid causes cavities in the teeth. This is why dentists recommend cleaning your child’s teeth after every meal and even snack. It doesn’t take long for bacteria to proliferate and produce acid. A good rule of thumb is to immediately brush and rinse food particles away from the teeth.

Good nutrition helps your child’s body fight infections and viruses of all kinds, not just maintain healthy tooth enamel. “Good nutrition” for your child is balanced, full of nutrients, and low in sticky starches and sugars. This means eating appropriately from the five food groups. The USDA has created a new food guide for children called “MyPlate.” Click on this link and read about the proportions of the various food groups that are recommended.

Most parents realize sugary foods like candy, cookies, and soft drinks need to be limited, but they don’t always realize that high carbohydrate foods like potato chips are also a problem if the food residue is not cleaned away.

Many parents offer nutrient rich fruits such as milk, bananas and raisins but don’t realize they contain sugar that needs to be cleaned from the teeth.

Be intentional about teaching your child to brush and rinse even after snacking, as much as possible. Rinsing the mouth with water is better than nothing if snacking occurs away from home.

Cheese is a great snack because it triggers saliva production in the mouth that assists in washing food particles off of teeth. Fruits and vegetables that have high water content are also excellent choices for snacks, when away from the toothbrush. Examples of these are pears, melons, and celery. Less food residue will stick to the teeth and in nooks and crannies of the mouth to feed bacteria.

Regular check ups by a pediatric dentist in Charlotte such as Dr. Bevin Malley will ensure your child receives the preventive dental care that all children deserve. In her next article, Charlotte Pediatric Dentist, Dr. Bevin Malley will be writing more about healthy snacking and oral hygiene habits to maintain healthy teeth.

“Let me know if I can be of help in answering any specific questions you have regarding your child’s oral health and nutrition,” says Dr. Malley. “My mission is to help you help your child establish healthy habits for a lifetime of healthy, beautiful smiles.”