How does diet affect a child’s dental health?
Your child must have a balanced diet for teeth and gums to develop properly. Equally important, a diet high in certain kinds of carbohydrates, such as sugar and starches, may place your child at extra risk of tooth decay.
How to ensure a diet that is safe for the child’s teeth?
First, be sure he/she has a balanced diet. Then, check how frequently he/she eats foods with sugar or refined processed carbohydrates.
Refined processed carbohydrates include breads, sweetened cereals, cookies, biscuits and most packaged snacks such as potato chips, etc. Fizzy beverages, packaged fruit drinks, and milk shakes with chocolate or other supplements are definitely related with high rate of dental decay.
Almost all foods contain one or more types of sugar, and all types of sugars can promote dental decay. The trick is to avoid frequent consumption of refined processed carbohydrates, discourage in-between meal snacking, and limit the sugar exposures to teeth.
What are the dos and don’ts of eating sugary foods?
Sugars from natural sources such as fruits and raw vegetables are complex sugars and take a little longer to release acids in the mouth. Hence, natural sugars are always preferred. Therefore, fruits, or sweets made from jaggery are better for your child.
Sticky sugars have a long ‘oral clearance time’ and hence should be avoided. Toffees, éclairs, candies, lollipops are very harmful to teeth. Replace them with foods that are less sticky such as cookies, ice creams, rasgullas, kheer, etc. Even a chocolate is preferred to a sticky toffee or éclair!
Foods that require more chewing such as salads, vegetables, nuts, meat, fish, poultry, etc. are good choices. Preferably end your meal with fresh fruits such as apples, oranges or even a stick of celery, carrot or cucumber.
Discourage in-between meal snacking entirely or substitute it with nuts, popcorn or fresh fruit.
Frequent sugar consumption is harmful to teeth. Simply put, it is better for your child to eat an entire chocolate at one go, rather than eat the same bar of chocolate as bits and pieces through the entire day!
Does a balanced diet assure that the child is getting enough fluoride?
A balanced diet does not guarantee the proper amount of fluoride for the development and maintenance of your child’s teeth. If you do not live in a fluoridated community or have an ideal amount of naturally occurring fluoride in your source of water, your child will need a fluoride supplement during the years of tooth development.
However in our country, where the water distribution systems are not so regulated, the fluoride levels vary. Further, fluoride tablets are not easily available and have to be sourced from overseas, only on prescription.
Your pediatric dentist can help assess how much supplemental fluoride your child needs, if at all, based upon the amount of fluoride in your drinking water and your child’s age and weight. This is usually in cases of rampant dental decay, as a supplement to other modalities of prevention.
Topical fluoride applications, by the pediatric dentist, are preferred as they can better regulate the amount of fluoride administered.