Taking care of your child’s teeth includes more than just brushing twice a day and flossing. Nutrition plays a significant role in your child’s dental health. A good diet is essential for your child’s overall growth and development, which includes their teeth.
Surprisingly, almost all foods, milk and fruit included, have some type of sugar, which can contribute to tooth decay. Help control the amount of sugar your child consumes by limiting the amount of additional, unnecessary sugars your child ingests. Be sure to read food labels carefully and choose foods and beverages that are low in added sugars.
What Foods Are Good for My Child’s Dental Health?
So, what should your child eat? According to MyPlate, a resource from the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a balanced diet should include:
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and veggies should be half of what your child eats every day. Eating fruits and vegetables will provide your child with vital nutrients for their growing body’s health and maintenance. Crunchy fruits and vegetables, such as apples and carrots, can help clean their teeth of food buildup, though it does not replace brushing.
Grains, especially whole grains, are an essential source of many nutrients and fibers that are part of an overall healthy diet and can support healthy digestion. Half of your child’s grains should be whole grains, like oatmeal, whole wheat bread, or brown rice.
Dairy provides your child with important calcium and vitamin D. Dairy helps improve bone and dental health, especially in growing children. MyPlate recommends low-fat or fat-free dairy foods for additional health benefits.
Proteins function as building blocks for bones, muscles, and more. Make smart protein choices, like lean beef, skinless poultry, and fish. MyPlate recommends eating at least 8 oz. of seafood each week. Remember to also incorporate less obvious protein-rich foods, such as eggs, beans, peas, and legumes.
How Your Child Eats
On top of eating a nutritious diet, snacking habits, bottles, and pacifiers impact your child’s dental health, too. It’s recommended that children use bottles only for formula, milk, or breast milk. Water can be used in a bottle, once the child is old enough for it. However, liquids with sugar, such as juice or soft drinks, should not be given out of a bottle. This is because of the higher chance of the child falling asleep with the bottle, making them more likely to develop cavities.
If you send your child to bed with a bottle, allow them to have water, but avoid sending them to nap or sleep with a bottle of milk. Avoid prolonged use of pacifiers and sippy cups. Encourage your child to drink from a cup by their first birthday.
Still Have Questions?
Our dentists, associates, and dental hygienists are here to answer any questions you have about your child’s nutrition. We believe in empowering our patients and families with educational resources to help navigate your child’s nutrition and how it affects their dental health.