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Foods Bad for Children's Teeth

by Rebekah Richards

Some parents don't worry about tooth decay in children because baby teeth will eventually fall out. However, tooth decay in baby teeth can cause pain, difficulty chewing food and speaking problems. Baby teeth also hold a place for permanent teeth, and permanent teeth are more likely to be healthy if they grow into a healthy mouth. Keep your kids' teeth healthy by avoiding too many sugary foods and drinks.

Basics

Sugar from food residue in your mouth helps bacteria on your teeth develop into a sticky film called plaque. Bacteria produce acids, which eat away at tooth enamel and cause cavities, or tiny holes in the enamel. Brushing their teeth at least twice a day and visiting the dentist twice a year helps kids remove plaque, but you can also reduce plaque on your child's teeth by monitoring her diet.

Foods to Avoid

Avoid giving kids too many sugary foods, such as candy, cookies, cakes and raisins. Give kids milk or water to drink instead of soda, juice, punch, sports drinks or other sweetened drinks. If you give kids juice, dilute it with water. Look at nutrition labels and ingredient lists to determine whether foods have added sugar; for example, peanut butter, ketchup and other processed foods often contain surprisingly high levels of sugar.

Timing

Plaque takes time to form, so the length of time your child eats sugary foods also affects her dental health. For example, it's better to drink juice or soda with lunch than to sip juice or soda all afternoon. Eating snacks and meals at regular times can also help keep kids' teeth healthy. If your child eats snacks, offer healthy snacks, such as fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, cheese and yogurt, instead of snacks that contain added sugar.

Nutrition for Healthy Teeth

Kids also need calcium and other vitamins and minerals to help build strong teeth. The ability to store calcium, a natural ingredient in tooth enamel, decreases with age, so eating well as a kid is essential. Kids get calcium from milk, yogurt, cheese, fortified cereal, broccoli and dark leafy greens. In addition, fibrous vegetables, such as celery, help remove plaque from the teeth naturally. Finally, drinking fluoridated water helps children develop strong teeth. In many areas, tap water contains fluoride.

About the Author

Rebekah Richards is a professional writer with work published in the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," "Brandeis University Law Journal" and online at tolerance.org. She graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis University with bachelor's degrees in creative writing, English/American literature and international studies. Richards earned a master's degree at Carnegie Mellon University.

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