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Good Nutrition is Something to Smile About

February 12, 2012

My Daughter, Lauren, happily brushing her teeth before bed!

Let’s be honest with each other.  Sometimes it’s hard to get our kids to brush their teeth twice a day.  Have you ever gone into the bathroom and checked their toothbrush to make sure it was wet and smelled of toothpaste at bedtime?  February is a great month to emphasize to your kids the importance of dental health.  This month we celebrate National Children’s Dental Health Month.  The message is loud and clear…good dental hygiene AND good nutrition can help prevent tooth decay (and painful trips to the dentist)! 

The American Dental Association recommends brushing twice per day and flossing once daily.  But keep in mind, even with these good practices, there are certain foods that can counteract these good behaviors and cause cavities. 

There are a ton of bacteria that live in your mouth, also known as plaque.  Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that love sugars.  If you don’t clean your teeth after eating a meal, the plaque bacteria uses sugar found in food to make acids that can destroy the enamel on your teeth.  Over time tooth decay occurs, which is why it is so important to take preventative measures. 

Tips for Best Dental Health

 –     Limit foods with added sugar.  Almost all foods contain sugar (fruits, vegetables, milk, bread, cereals, and even some vegetables).  The key is to eat foods that give additional nutrients (also called nutrient-dense foods) and limit foods that are high in added sugars.  Read the ingredients on packaged foods to identify added sugars. 

 –     Eat a balanced diet to get all of the recommended nutrients.  If your diet lacks certain nutrients, over time it may be difficult for tissues in your mouth to fight infections, which may contribute to gum disease and tooth loss in adulthood.  Use the USDA MyPlate as a guide to creating balanced meals.

 –     Limit sugary snacks in between meals.  Each time you eat a sugary food, acid attacks the teeth for at least 20 minutes or more.  Instead choose foods that are low in sugar such as cheese, raw vegetables, or plain yogurt. 

 –     Foods that are eaten as part of a meal cause less harm than snacks in between meals.  You may be thinking what does timing have to do with it?  The answer is saliva.  More saliva is produced during a meal, which helps wash away food and decrease the effects of acids.    

 –     Drink plenty of water!  Like saliva, drinking water can help to flush away food that may be stuck between your teeth, which can then prevent your teeth from being attacked by acid.  Fluoridated water can protect your teeth from tooth decay.  If you don’t have fluoridated water in your area, be sure to use fluoride toothpaste when brushing.

 –     Replace sugary beverages (soda, juice, or sports drinks) with drinks that hydrate and give good nutrition, such as milk.  Never let children go to bed with a bottle of juice or milk because overnight the sugar can cause serious tooth decay. 

 Discuss these tips with your kids today and help prevent dental decay before it starts!  Let me know how it goes, and send me their smiling faces brushing their teeth!

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