If you are a Mom with a busy family, you know that there is a lot to think about when dealing with grocery shopping and meal planning; but one especially important element to consider when you're planning meals is the inclusion of food for healthy teeth. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry says that about 90 percent of the food we eat is made up of starches and sugars, which produce acids that can lead to tooth decay. While you cannot eliminate all these foods from your family's diet, you can make a few smart choices and switch out some harmful foods for healthier options; but first you need to know the relevant food facts.
Building Strong Teeth
A healthy diet is critical for the proper development of bones and teeth. Calcium and phosphorus are especially important for strong teeth, but other vitamins and minerals, along with proteins, are necessary, too. Besides helping your teeth resist decay, these vitamins and minerals also help prevent gum disease and other oral diseases and infections.
To ensure a balanced nutritious diet for your family, the American Dental Association recommends following the U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPlate guidelines. When you serve your family lots of vegetables, fresh fruits, proteins and whole grains, you're giving them beneficial food for healthy teeth.
According to the Academy of General Dentistry, recent studies indicate that eating cheese can protect your teeth against cavities by lowering the acid levels in your mouth. Cheese also stimulates saliva, which helps buffer acids that can attack the teeth. During chewing, calcium and phosphorus found in cheese adhere to the teeth and actually help disrupt the development of cavities. Eating cheese alone or at the end of your meal can be especially helpful.
Good Snacks, Bad Snacks
You'll never get away with not buying snacks for the family without a revolt, so here's the scoop on snacks: Which ones to keep in the house and when to serve them. Some of the worst snacks for your family's teeth are those that are not only sugary and sticky but take a long time to consume. When leisurely sucking on hard candy or slowly sipping sugary drinks, acids are on your teeth the entire time that these foods or drinks are in your mouth. Also, if you sip your coffee with sugar and cream throughout the morning, your teeth are under a prolonged acid attack.
The best time to eat sugars and carbohydrates is at mealtimes. This limits the number of times that these foods are eaten throughout the day and limits the time that decay-causing acids are produced. Save the yummy but really bad snacks for special occasions, and get your family used to brushing or rinsing thoroughly when they are done snacking. Try the Colgate® Wisp® mini-toothbrush, which makes it easy to clean your teeth anytime and anywhere.
By keeping your pantry and fridge stocked with good healthy snacks, you and your family will be less likely to grab something sweet and sticky. Cheeses, yogurts, peanut butter, fresh fruits and vegetables are all great substitutes for crackers, cookies and candies. If you have a family of gum chewers, make sure that you are buying sugar-free gum with xylitol, which can actually help reduce the risk of decay. Substitute water and milk (even chocolate milk) for carbonated sodas and juices. For a great special treat (when eaten in moderation), keep some dark chocolate on hand.
Food for Thought
Isn't it ironic that we need strong teeth to eat even though what we eat can destroy our teeth? This is why you should make the best and healthiest food choices for your family.
Dr. Stephen J. Moss, a pediatric dentist from New York, summed it up nicely on the AAPD website when he said, "No food is really 'bad' for children who don't snack often, brush twice a day with a dab of fluoride toothpaste and protect their back teeth with sealants."