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What foods should my child eat for healthy teeth and gums?

Megan  Chin, DDS
Pediatric Dentistry
Cavities are caused primarily by foods containing high amounts of carbohydrates and sugars. Very sticky snacks are particularly harmful to teeth because they easily lodge into the pits and grooves of your child's teeth and are difficult for the mouth to clear naturally. Thus, it is best to avoid feeding your child chewy snacks such as dried fruit, granola, hard cookies, gummies and caramel.

Instead she should stick with softer snacks that slide off her teeth. Fresh fruits and veggies are fine, and some foods, like cheese, have been shown to prevent cavities. One substance in particular, xylitol (an artificial sweetener), has been proven to actually stop the growth of cavity-causing bacteria. So candy or gum sweetened with xylitol will be great treats.

When it comes to liquids, water is always the best choice. Juice and sugary drinks should be kept to a minimum, and it is recommended that your child drink no more than 4 to 6 ounces per day. Parents should avoid putting their infant or toddler to sleep with a bottle containing anything other than water, as this practice is the primary cause of early childhood cavities today.
A key aspect of good dental health is limiting or eliminating your child's consumption of sugary foods and drinks. Avoid sticky sweets such as fruit rollups, candy, and cookies. Some foods such as chips and crackers are less obvious sources of sugar. Rather than giving these as snacks, make them part of a larger meal. Drinks are another less obvious source of sugar. Juices, lemonade, flavored drinks, and pop all contain sugar that can contribute to tooth decay.

While teeth are developing, it is important to practice good oral health care. And part of that routine includes eating a well-balanced diet.

  • Limiting snacking. The more you snack, the more frequently teeth come into contact food that becomes bacteria and attacks the teeth. 
  • Limit sugary foods.
  • Drink fluoridated tap water to help prevent tooth decay.
  • Drink milk and orange juice for vitamin D
  • Eat fruits and vegetables
  • Eat whole grain foods
  • Eat protein that is lean
Regular and proper brushing and flossing are the most important steps to healthy teeth. However, what your child eats can also make a difference.

Try these dietary tips for healthy teeth and gums:
  • Include plenty of calcium and vitamin D-rich foods in your child's diet. Low-fat and fat-free dairy products are good sources of each.
  • Don't put a baby to bed with a bottle of juice or formula.
  • Sticky foods like dried fruits and granola bars and sweetened beverages can remain on our child's teeth for longer periods of time, providing the right fuel for cavity-causing bacteria. Be sure they brush after having these snacks.
  • Snacks like raw vegetables, popcorn, fruits such as apples, pears and oranges, plain yogurt, cheese and milk promote oral health.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.