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Nutrition For Healthy Teeth, Child Growth And Development

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

We've all heard that milk builds strong bones. But did you know that your overall diet contributes to your oral health? The same is true for your children. While dietary needs vary as children move through different stages of growth, one thing is certain: Foods that are good for the body are good for the teeth. Read on to learn how your kids can get the nutrition they need, not only for healthy teeth but for strong, confident, and robust growth and development.

Strong Teeth, Strong Bones

It's essential for children to develop strong bones for many reasons, including proper growth, to prevent fractures and bone problems when they are adults, and to support their teeth. Strong teeth help children prevent tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease later in life.

Foods 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, many children in the U.S. are not getting enough calcium in their diet. Johns Hopkins, All Children's Hospital, says that kids need the following recommended daily 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 you can also get calcium from foods like broccoli or tofu. Do your best to limit your home's 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 vital for your child's development, and that includes teeth. So how do you make good food choices to ensure your family gets the nutrition they need? Teach your kids about My Plate. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's "My Plate" is an excellent source of dietary guidelines for 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.

Make Healthy Snacks Available at Home

My Plate can help parents plan out healthy meals, but what about snacks? Kids often fall into the bad habit of grabbing candy, sodas, and other sugary foods when they make a snack for themselves. Sugar is notorious for creating cavities, and too much of it can lead to an unhealthy diet. Try to place wholesome snack options in plain sight for children to grab after school or on weekends between meals.

Consider putting a bowl filled with fruits out for kids to snack on. If that doesn't work, Mom and Dad can try cutting up an apple into slices and serving it with peanut butter. This way, the child will get a serving of fruit along with a protein source. The same can be done with veggies; carrots, celery, and zucchini can be sliced and served with hummus or another dip. Some parents keep yogurt on hand to use as a dip and help kids get more calcium, contributing to healthy teeth.

Make a "You Are What You Eat" Project

Children learn by what they see, so it's up to you to set a good example and follow the same dietary guidelines as you are asking your kids to follow. Suppose you're wondering how to teach kids about nutrition. In that case, there are many fun activities to help teach your children healthy eating habits. For example, help your kids draw a body shape onto paper (a paper grocery bag is a useful resource). Next, look through old magazines for pictures of a variety of foods. As your family cuts out the pictures, discuss which foods are healthy and which are not. Next, glue the healthy food pictures to the body shape, making a collage. When it's complete, hang everyone's collage on the fridge to serve as a reminder to make a healthy choice when you reach for a snack.

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 vital to supplement natural consumption with fluoride products like toothpaste and mouthwash to ensure that your kids are getting enough.

Remember that children shouldn't always use the same products as their parents. Talk to your dentist and pediatrician about your child's individual fluoride needs at each stage of development.

There are plenty of ways to guide your children through building a healthy diet that supports healthy growth. You might even find that it's more fun than you thought! By making healthy snacks available at home, involving your child and their preferences in meal planning, and incorporating fluoride into their daily oral care routine, you're setting your child up for a lifetime of healthy eating and critical oral health habits!

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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