Diet tips for healthy teeth – in a nutshell….

Dental decay has been linked with sweet and acid foods. Plaque bacteria in the mouth transform sweet food into acid, which subsequently breaks down the tooth surface and causes tooth decay. It is very important to reduce the number of times per day that decay producing food or drink is taken. Children at high risk for decay need to have gaps between meals to allow their saliva to neutralise plaque acids formed and allow the mouth to return to a safe neutral pH again. Ideally children should only eat five times a day to reduce their decay risk. This reduces the amount of acid in the mouth. Drinks of water and milk are welcome between meals because they reduce acid on the teeth.

Tooth-damaging foods and drinks are: sweetened drinks such as juice, cordial, Milo, Quik, Ribena, sports drinks, soft drinks (including sugar-free drinks), and sweet foods including dried fruit, fruit fingers, honey, jam, Nutella, Roll ups or muesli bars. Having these between meals increases the risk of decay occurring. Children will remain at high risk if their diet is not modified.

Frequent consumption of fruit between meals can damage tooth enamel, as fruit can be acidic. When children eat fruit between meals, it is advisable that they follow up with a small square of cheese or a drink of milk or water, as this washes out the acidity from the mouth. Going to bed with an apple in the mouth is not safe. (*Fruits contain fructose a natural sugar)

Tooth-friendly snacks are rice cakes, dry biscuits, popcorn, nuts, cheese slices, peanut butter, vegemite, butter, cut-up vegetables with dips such as hummus. For a healthy, balanced diet, children need three pieces of fruit and five vegetables a day, as well as a high intake of grains and protein, and three intakes of dairy products.

Teeth should be brushed after breakfast and before going to bed at night. Children should clean their teeth with a toothbrush and toothpaste (a pea size amount of low fluoride toothpaste for children under 6 years of age, normal fluoridated toothpaste for children over 6 years of age), spit and no rinsing with water after, and then have nothing to eat or drink other than water before bedtime.

Helpful hints:
• Rather than having lollies in the house, buy a treat for your child once a week. Choose lollies which are not sticky and avoid jelly snakes, lollipops, Minties and toffees which tend to stay in the mouth for a long time and are very sticky. Have the treat at the end of a meal, not between meals.
• Eat all lollies at once. If unable to brush immediately, chewing sugar free gum for 10 minutes is a good alternative. This will stimulate saliva flow that washes out the mouth.
• Do grocery shopping without children and think savour, vegetable – crunchy, not sweet.
• Remember that it is the number of times that the teeth are exposed to sweet ,sticky and acid things that is important, not the amount eaten.

© Kidz Teeth | Specialist Paediatric Dentists - Auckland, New Zealand