Here’s how the foods and drinks kids eat may affect the health of their teeth.
As parents, we try to keep our children as healthy as possible. This includes all aspect of their health—from their physical and mental health to their dental health. One way we help keep our kids’ teeth healthier is by teaching them important life skills, such as how to brush and floss.
Good oral hygiene has a major impact on oral health. But there are other factors at play, too. For example, what kids eat or drink may cause cavities. Since diet plays a role in dental health, it’s helpful to know about some of the best and worst foods for keeping teeth healthy.
Best Foods for Kids’ Teeth
Many of the foods that are good for kids’ teeth are also good for their overall health because they are rich in important vitamins, minerals and nutrients. These include:
- Green leafy vegetables. Foods like spinach, kale and romaine have lots of healthy nutrients to keep growing bodies strong. Their folic acid is also good for teeth and gums.
- Crunchy fruits and veggies. Foods like apples and carrots help remove bacteria and sugars that can get stuck on teeth and can turn to plaque.
- Foods with a high water content. Fruits and veggies like celery and cucumbers contain a lot of water, which can help keep teeth cleaner and lower the amount of sugar in the mouth.
- Nuts and seeds. These little nuggets are high in calcium and phosphorus, which strengthens tooth enamel.
- Dairy. Foods like milk, cheese and yogurt contain calcium, phosphorus and casein, which is crucial for building strong teeth and helps neutralize acids in the mouth.
- Eggs. The protein, calcium and vitamin D in eggs keeps teeth strong and healthy. Other lean protein, such as chicken, turkey and fish, also strengthens tooth enamel.
Worst Foods for Kids’ Teeth
Sugar is the worst thing for teeth. Sugary foods and drinks that coat teeth or get stuck in crevices are converted into acid by bacteria in the mouth. Acid wears away at tooth enamel and causes tooth decay. These foods and drinks may contribute to poor dental health:
- Sugary drinks. The same drinks that are full of sugar are often acidic, which is a double whammy when it comes to harming teeth. Soda is tooth enemy number one, but sports drinks and fruit juices are also harmful.
- Candy. Another obvious food that harms teeth is candy, especially if it’s chewy or sticky. Sour candy is especially bad because it’s also acidic, which harms tooth enamel.
- Dried fruit. Although healthier than candy because it has some nutrients, dried fruit still has lots of sugar and is sticky so it can cause as much harm to teeth.
- Fresh fruit. Fruit has many health benefits. Just be mindful that it contains sugar and sometimes acid, so encourage brushing after eating (or at least rinse with water).
- Chips, bread and pasta. Foods made from simple starches, like white flour, break down into sugar when exposed to microorganisms in the mouth. This can be as bad for teeth as sugar. Since these foods have limited or no nutritional value, they’re also not great for overall health.
Check out Baton Rouge Clinic Pediatrician, Dr. Mindy Calandro’s WAFB interview about healthy snacks.
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Date Last Reviewed: December 13, 2022
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Jane Schwartz, RDN, CLT