Nutrition for Healthy Teeth, Child Growth and Development

Healthy teeth are a reflection of a child's overall health and well-being. Dietary needs vary as children move through different stages of growth, but one thing is certain: Foods that are good for the body are good for the teeth. Here is how to ensure your kids get the nutrition they need for healthy teeth and proper child growth and development.

Strong Teeth, Strong Bones

Children must develop strong bones for proper growth, to prevent fractures and bone problems when they are adults, and to support their teeth. Strong teeth help children resist tooth decay and prevent gum disease. Foods that are rich in vitamins, calcium, phosphorus and protein are the building blocks for healthy bones and teeth. Meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, green leafy vegetables and fresh fruits are the types of nutrient-dense foods your child needs daily.

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports that half of the children in the US are not getting enough calcium. The National Institutes of Health's Medline Plus magazine says that kids need the following recommended calcium intake:

  • Ages one to three years: 700 mg a day
  • Ages four to eight: 1000 mg a day
  • Ages nine to 18: 1300 mg a day

Milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products are good sources of calcium, but don't forget other foods such as broccoli or tofu. It's also important to limit soda intake, and be watchful that your child isn't swapping out calcium rich drinks for more sugary ones.

Foods Good for the Body and Teeth

As a parent, you know healthy growth and development is important for your child, and that includes teeth. So how do you make good food choices to ensure your family gets the nutrition they need? The U.S. Department of Agriculture's "My Plate" is a great source of dietary guidelines for kids and adults of all ages. My Plate can help you plan meals from the five food groups so that you know your family gets the right amount of fruits, vegetables, proteins, whole grains and dairy.

Don't Forget the Fluoride

Fluoride is a mineral that helps strengthen bones and teeth. It's found in small amounts naturally in many foods and water supplies. However, it's important to supplement these sources with fluoride products such as toothpaste and mouthwash to ensure the kids are getting enough.

You may be using Colgate® Cavity Protection toothpaste, but remember that children shouldn't always use the same products as Mom and Dad. Talk to your dentist and pediatrician about your child's individual fluoride needs at each stage of development. Products such as Colgate® 2in1 Watermelon Flavored Toothpaste can be a great way to get kids regularly brushing and get their teeth the fluoride they need. Dentists may also recommend fluoride supplements for kids who aren't getting fluoride from other sources.

Good nutrition and oral hygiene practices are fundamental to child growth and development. As a parent, you should lead by example. During these important developmental years, make healthy eating a priority for everyone in your family.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Tips for a Healthy Diet

  • Foods high in sugar are a particularly common cause of tooth decay. Making these foods a treat rather than a staple will help protect your teeth.

  • To maintain a balanced diet, eat a variety of foods from each of the five major food groups.

  • When choosing a snack, go for nutritious foods such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt or a piece of fruit.