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Teeth Care for Toddlers: Trying Tooth-Friendly Foods

Deirdre Mundy

What your toddler eats can have a huge impact on oral health, and most toddlers are drawn to sweet foods full of refined carbohydrates. Parents who care about teeth care about developing good eating habits. But what if you have a picky toddler? How can you get your child to try new and healthy foods? These hints might help.

Don't Take "No" As an Answer

Most toddlers will reject a new food the first time it is offered, and many parents give up too quickly. Some children need to try a new food as many as 15 times before they grow to like it. In addition, many toddlers like foods in some circumstances, but not in others. For instance, they will eat raw broccoli but not cooked broccoli, or frozen green beans but not canned green beans. Try each healthy food in a few different settings until you find a combination that your child loves.

Trade the Spices

Watch your spices as well. Some children love spices, others hate them. Try to introduce foods both plain and seasoned. If you find that your toddler's taste in spice does not match yours, cook the food plain, and then let everyone else add seasonings at the table. A little patience now will make a huge difference for your toddler's long-term teeth care.

Supervise Tough Foods

Crunchy vegetables and fruits may be good for the teeth, but they are difficult for many toddlers. When you give your child a crunchy food, supervise. Parental oversight can prevent choking accidents. If your child cannot handle that carrot, she may need to grow a few more teeth before you try again. Apples with thick skins can frustrate tiny mouths, so peel them, and cut them into slices.

Don't Forget the Milk

After a child eats a sugary or carbohydrate-rich food, acids from bacteria attack the teeth for up to half an hour. Recently, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago found that a glass of milk can help prevent acid attacks. Water also helps, but not as much as the milk. Furthermore, drinking juice alongside sugary or high-carbohydrate foods will actually make the damage worse. Make teeth care easier, and make sure that your child drinks milk.

Avoid Sugary Foods

Even if your toddler loves sweets, limit them. Over the years, researchers have found plenty of evidence that sugars and refined carbohydrates contribute to tooth decay. Recently, scientists writing in the journal Nature Genetics analyzed dental plaque from ancient, medieval, and modern humans. They found that the bacteria that cause cavities did not exist before the Industrial Revolution. Adding refined sugar and grains to our diets actually created the teeth care problems that we face today.

Teeth care affects your child's overall health, appearance, and self-esteem. By encouraging your child to eat healthy foods now, you will instill lifelong good habits. Stay patient, and keep trying. Soon, your picky toddler will learn to love the foods that protect teeth.

Learn More about healthy foods in the Colgate Oral Care resources.

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