Tooth decay is the primary cause of tooth loss, and one of the most significant culprits in tooth decay is what we eat. If a child’s diet consists of too many starchy and sugary foods, it can cause cavities. Now that school is in session, it is sometimes easy to fill kids’ diets with starchy and sugary foods. However, it is important to closely monitor snacking and to provide children with a well-balanced diet.
The Link between Diet and Tooth Decay
One of the best ways to help your child be cavity-free is by providing a healthy diet. Cavities are caused by bacteria that live in the mouth. The bacteria feed off of the starches and sugars, which produces an acid that sits on the teeth and dissolves the enamel (demineralizes) and starts the cavity process.
The Effects of Sugar
Sugar is one of the largest contributors to tooth decay. While in school, children are unable to brush their teeth immediately after eating sugary items, so the sugar is allowed to sit on the teeth for a longer period of time. Sticky sugars that are often included in school lunches and/or snacks will significantly increase the risk of cavities.
Starch and Tooth Decay
Starch is a type of carbohydrate that is typically found in foods such as bread, potatoes and rice. The leading culprits for starch in a child’s diet are foods such as pancakes and certain breakfast cereals. When these types of starchy foods are combined with sugars, such as syrup, it significantly increases the risk of tooth decay.
Eating a Balanced Diet
It is important to begin teaching children about healthy eating choices and good dental care, which includes visiting a kids’ dentist, even before they begin their first year of school. Children do not have to give up all of their favorite foods that contain sugar or starch, but they do need to choose them wisely and it is best to brush after consumption. A balanced diet includes milk and dairy products, meat, fish, eggs, whole-grain breads, and fruits and vegetables. Many foods, such as fruits, taste sweet without any added sugars.
Foods that contain sugar and/or starches are safer for teeth when they are eaten with meals, because there is more saliva released when eating a meal. Saliva helps wash foods from the mouth, so it reduces the effect of acids on the teeth. Sticky foods, such as fruit roll ups, fruit snacks, and candies are more difficult to wash away with saliva because they get stuck on the tooth or in a tooth groove, so there is a greater risk of tooth decay. Encourage children to brush at least twice each day with fluoride toothpaste, drink plenty of water, and see a kids’ dentist routinely.