As a former dental assistant I know the importance of looking after your children’s teeth from an early age. Tooth decay is preventable with good dental care. Brushing teeth twice a day, using a fluoride toothpaste, eating a healthy and nutritious diet, and having regular dental check-ups at the dentist are essential steps towards preventing tooth decay.
Cleaning children’s teeth isn’t a guarantee against tooth decay. The types of food and drink you give your child can also affect their teeth. When we eat and drink, the bacteria in plaque use the sugars in food to make acid. The longer food and drink stays in your child’s mouth, especially sugary things like soft drink, roll ups and muesli bars, the more chance there is for acid to develop and cause damage to tooth enamel.
Having regular snacks and meal times, rather than letting your child ‘graze’ all day is a great way to prevent tooth decay. Other ways to prevent tooth decay through healthy eating habits include:
- Provide healthy snacks and meals that are low in sugar.
- Save treats for special occasions only.
- Foods like muesli bars, honey, Nutella, fruit rollups and dried fruit are not recommended. They contain high concentrations of natural and added sugars and will stick to your child’s teeth. Fresh fruit and vegetables are the best option.
- Do not add sugar to encourage fussy eaters. Continue to offer healthy food and drinks.
- Do not reward or comfort your child with sweets.
- Avoid soft drinks, juices, sports drinks and cordial. Water is the best thirst quencher. Plain milk is another good option.
Some heathy tooth friendly meals/snacks include:
- Sandwiches – cheese & vegemite, egg & lettuce, chicken/ham & salad, peanut butter
- Grilled cheese on toast
- Rice/pasta dishes
- Home-made pizza on pita bread
- Baked beans
- Hard-boiled egg
- Corn on the cob
- Raw vegetables cut into sticks
- Fresh fruit cut into child size pieces
- Cruskits with cream cheese or avocado
- Milk, cheese and yoghurt
- Piklets, scones or banana bread
Settling babies to sleep with bottles of milk can also lead to early childhood tooth decay, particularly if it happens often. The problem is that milk contains natural sugars, which can build up around baby’s teeth at night. Therefore it is recommended that you don’t settle your baby in bed with a bottle of milk. If your baby needs extra fluids, cooled boiled water is best.
In general, if you’re bottle-feeding, take the bottle away when the baby is finished. If you are breast-feeding, when the baby has had enough take him/her off the breast. These simple measures can help prevent early childhood tooth decay.
For new or expectant mothers in Brisbane, Cooper Plains Dental Surgery offer free workshops to discuss oral health care in pregnancy, infancy and the early childhood years. They will provide you with information assist in looking after your children’s teeth. Please phone (07) 3345 1099 to register or visit www.cpdental.com.au for more information.
For information on how to brush your child’s teeth http://centenarynannies.com.au/brush-childs-teeth/