As moms, we know how important healthy snacks are to help kids maintain energy throughout the day. But when making snack or school lunch, it’s not always easy to know which foods might be harmful for teeth. In this post, we’ll share some of Dr. Asha’s advice about what she sends for her own kids to eat at school.
First off, let’s talk about why snacking isn’t the greatest for our teeth. While there are certainly other health benefits to snacks and smaller meals, from a dental perspective it’s a problem.
“When we eat throughout the day, we don’t give our mouths a chance to neutralize acid from cavity-causing bacteria,” Dr. Asha said. Our bodies have a natural process for cleaning teeth and constant eating interrupts it.
So that’s why it’s especially important to choose healthy snacks and drinks for eating in-between meals.
What to Eat for a Healthy Smile
1. Raw Vegetables – Carrots, celery, cucumbers, bell peppers and other fibrous vegetables are great for teeth because they act as natural toothbrushes as we eat them. Crunching on carrots helps remove food particles and stimulates saliva production, which is what we want to break down the acid.
2. Strawberries – Along with plums, pumpkin, and cauliflower, strawberries contain naturally occurring xylitol, which has been shown to fighting cavity-causing bacteria. Strawberries are an excellent source of Vitamin C and contain manganese and other nutrients.
3. Cheese – Cheese is another good way to reduce acidity in the mouth. It also has calcium, which is an important building block for healthy teeth (and bones!)
4. Nuts and Seeds – A great alternative to chips, salty and crunchy nuts or seeds give us a little boost of protein. Just be sure that your child’s teeth are strong enough for nuts as severe decay may cause teeth to be more susceptible to breaking.
5. Spinach and Kale – Leafy greens contain B vitamins, which help fight gum disease. Eat it raw, cooked, or in juice form. Try blending greens with ice, banana, and mango for a healthy treat.
What to Beware
1. Candy – All candy isn’t equally bad for your teeth. Sticky, sour, hard candy is certainly the worst while dark chocolate is one of the best. It’s not realistic to say “no candy,” but we try to teach children how to choose better options.
2. Carbohydrates – Starchy snacks like breads, crackers, pretzels, and chips are converted to sugars as we chew them. Just because they aren’t sweet, these salty snacks can do just as much damage to our teeth.
3. Sneaky Sugar – Dried fruits, flavored yogurt, and fruit snacks all seem like healthy snack options. But check labels for sugar content, which can be surprisingly high. And remember that sticky foods are difficult to remove from teeth, causing harmful sugars to remain on teeth.
4. Juice – We know juice is really appealing to kids and it seems like a healthy alternative to sodas, but the truth is that juice may be just as bad for enamel as soda! If your child does drink juice, make sure it’s a type with low sugar and rinse out the mouth afterward.
No matter what you choose to eat, make sure you wash it down with a glass of water! It’s a great way to immediately rinse off food particles that stick around and damage our teeth.
As moms, we try to feed our children the healthiest foods we can. It’s not always possible to eat an ideal diet–our lives are busy and kids tend to have their own opinions about what they eat. Our goal isn’t to lecture parents, but to empower you to make the best choices possible for your family’s dental and overall health.
Because so many of the foods we enjoy do damage teeth, proper brushing twice a day is key. Professional cleanings are important to have at least every six months to maintain a healthy smile.