February is Children’s Dental Health Month, and there’s no better time help your employees teach their children better habits for healthy teeth. The foods children eat play a huge role in their overall dental health. So which foods should you avoid and which foods should you encourage? We’ll look at the options parents have, along with some healthy alternatives to the most tempting of treats.
The Best Foods for Children’s Teeth
When you’re considering foods that improve children’s dental health, you should think about more than just cavities. Certain foods can also kill bacteria, make teeth stronger and even “clean” teeth. Here are some examples.
- Killing bacteria: Fruits with vitamin C can promote collagen and help kill bacteria that cause gingivitis. These fruits include oranges, papayas, strawberries, limes and kiwis. However, remember that citrus fruits can also irritate mouth sores, so encourage lots of water drinking when eating these fruits.
- Strengthening teeth: Foods high in calcium can help strengthen children’s teeth. These include yogurt, milk and even broccoli.
- “Natural” brushing: Crisp vegetables can actually naturally scrape away plaque while eating. Try raw veggies like carrots and green beans.
- Decreasing food particles: Cheese can increase your production of saliva, which washes food particles away from teeth, Cleveland Clinic explained.
The Worst–Offending Foods
Sugary food is among the worst for teeth. The bacteria in plaque can thrive on sugar and eventually dissolve enamel. Chewy sweets that stick to your teeth, like taffy or caramel, are even worse because they stay in your mouth longer. Chips bring the same type of issue, since the particles can get stuck in your teeth. Meanwhile, hard candies bring the added danger of chipping a tooth, the ADA warns.
Sodas are also a bad choice. In addition to sugar, the acids in soda can erode the surface of teeth. Even fruit juice should be approached with caution, limiting the amount to about a glass a day, because of the sugar content.
In fact, some foods that you might think are healthy actually aren’t that great. Dried fruit, for example, is still high in sugar and not a great choice, according to the NHS.
Quick, Healthy Snack Alternatives
One of the big problems with the worst-offending foods is that they also tend to be very tempting. It can be easy for a child to grab a bag of M&Ms or have a bowl of ice cream at night. Your best option is to not just take away the offending food but to replace it with a tasty alternative. It can take about two months to break a bad habit, but you’ll have a lot more success if you replace it with a new one.
For example, replace sugary snacks with sugar-free versions. Instead of candy, encourage your employees to give their children nuts, sugarless gum, raw carrots if they like them or even cheese. Replace soda with milk or water. Instead of ice cream at night, try sugar-free Jell-O. If it’s really hard to cut out sugar entirely, make sugar an occasional end-of-day treat on special occasions, rather than a daily snack expectation.
Bad dental habits that start in childhood can plague them into adulthood. So help them get a head start on healthy decisions and healthy teeth during Children’s Dental Health Month. Just remember—it’s easier to start a habit than to break one. Offer alternatives for children to enjoy so they don’t feel like they’re missing out.