When shopping for foods, there is a difference between options that offer full-body health and options that offer ideal dental health. Even if a food provides minimal calories and great nutritional value, you should be aware of the potential problems it can cause in a child’s mouth.
While you do not need to ban the foods, proper oral hygiene habits will help keep their mouths clean and prevent long-term problems in the future.
A quick snack option for children and easy to pack in a lunch bag, dried fruits can last longer in the pantry, but the chewy nature of the fruit can lead to multiple dental problems. The fruit can become stuck in a child’s teeth. The combination of sugars and acid can lead to major oral problems like swollen gums or cavities.
Common options include raisins or prunes. When you shop for dried fruits, you also want to be aware of added sugars. Many companies will coat fruit in extra sugar to improve flavors. Even harder dried fruits like banana chips present problems. Along with added sugars, banana chips may have hard and sharp edges that cut the gums.
When possible, stick with the whole fruits to help protect a child’s mouth and provide nutritional value.
Sticking with the fruit category, another healthy option to avoid are a majority of canned fruits. While the fruit itself is often fine, the fruits are soaked in a heavy syrup that contains a lot of extra sugar. The thicker syrup can stay on teeth, go between teeth, and remain there for several hours until a child brushes again.
When you shop for canned fruit, look for cans with 100% juice and no sugar added to avoid the extra sugar content. You should also be aware of the juices found in canned citrus fruit like oranges. The juice contains high levels of acid which can damage tooth enamel when excessive exposure occurs.
Before you serve a child the fruit, rinse it off ahead of time to avoid any major issues.
Acids from canned fruits can present oral problems along with the high acid content found in tomatoes. Even if a child doesn’t snack on tomatoes on their own, many foods will contain tomatoes and high acids. For example, if a child enjoys Italian dishes like pizza or spaghetti, the sauces will contain high amounts of acid.
You do not have to limit the exposure to tomatoes, but you should consider serving water with the meals. Water will help clear the mouth out and are a better alternative than other drinks like fruit juices. If you serve tomato-based foods with juices, then you are doubling up on the acid exposure in the mouth.
Enamel health is important for young children and will prevent tooth decay. Follow up meals with a tooth brushing and mouthwash routine to keep the mouth clean.
You can find many healthy versions of popcorn for children, but removing extra salt and butter still doesn’t get rid of the potential harm to teeth and gums. If popcorn kernels get stuck in gums, then the kernels can cause gums to swell up and leave gaps where bacteria can reach the root of a tooth.
If a child chomps on a popcorn kernel that has not fully popped, then it may cause a crack or chip, especially in baby teeth that are not as strong as adult teeth. Stick to alternate forms of popcorn chips that offer the same flavors while eliminating the excess kernels.
If you any dental concerns about your child’s eating habits and oral health, contact us at Apollo Dental. We will perform a full oral exam and can help educate your child on healthy food choices and ways to take care of their mouth.