Good health is crucial for a child to have a successful school year!
Wondering what to pack for your kid’s lunches and snacks?
Oral health is part of total health so here are some tips on how to keep your children’s teeth healthy so they can focus on school in as healthy a state as possible. First and foremost, it’s important to understand what causes cavities, and if you think it’s sugar, think again! What causes a cavity to form is acid. The acid dissolves our teeth. “Ok,” you say. “But I’m not serving my kids tall glasses of vinegar or lemon juice. So they should be fine, right?” Let’s think about this. Right now, living on your kids’ teeth (and yours and mine, for that matter) are about 700 different species of bacteria. They make up what we call the oral microbiome and in a clean, healthy mouth, they help to maintain our balance of oral health. When we ingest any carbohydrate, the bacteria transform the sugars in those foods into lactic acid…and as we just learned, the acid dissolves teeth! But wait, there’s more! One additional component is the amount of time these acids are allowed to remain on our teeth. The longer the acid is in contact with our teeth, the weaker our enamel becomes, and eventually, it can dissolve, leaving the interior of the tooth exposed. This is what we call a cavity. I’m ordered to avoid food (or acid) from remaining on the teeth for too long, and avoid those foods that get stuck in the grooves of our teeth the longest such as sweet and sticky candy and crunchy carbohydrates (like crackers, pretzels, cereal, cookies, etc.)
Here are some tips on how to minimize the impact of food on our teeth:
- In the morning, having a breakfast that includes lots of different food groups, for example, eggs, veggies, and nut butter on toast will leave you feeling more satisfied and help you be able to think about what feels good to your body before choosing a treat. Leaving out a plate of cut-up veggies when kids return from school is a great choice so they don’t reach for the crunchy/sugary snacks!
- When the kids head back to school and are looking for snacks to take along, send things that provide lots of nutrients and help to fill their tummies, such as string cheese, sliced fruits, and veggies! (And if you’re wondering about the sugar and acids in fruits, suffice it to say that fresh, whole fruits do not promote tooth decay.)
- Water, water, water! Save the drinks that have sugar (and acid) for special occasions to help keep your teeth strong. Keep in mind that sugar-free drinks are still acidic! Even seltzer has carbonic acid! Only water helps the mouth maintain a neutral state when it comes to the acid in the mouth.
- Everyone, children and adults alike, should brush their teeth twice a day, once when they wake up and once before bedtime.
- A parent should be brushing their children’s teeth if the child isn’t old enough to tie their shoelaces. Usually, around ages 7-8, a child can start brushing on their own, when they have the dexterity and attentiveness to reach all tooth surfaces.
- For children ages three and older, use an amount of fluoride toothpaste equivalent to the size of a pea, and for children under three years, use an amount the size of a grain of rice.
- Don’t forget to visit your dentist every 6 months for x-rays, exams, cleanings, and fluoride. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Wishing everyone a successful and healthy school year!