How to Care for your Child’s Oral Health
Just as maintaining a nutritious diet is vital for your child to grow up healthy and strong, his food choices also play a critical role in the health of his mouth. What your child eats affects his oral health. A diet that lacks the right vitamins and minerals can cause your child’s teeth not to develop properly, increasing the risk of early tooth decay, which can potentially lead to gum disease.
Last Wednesday, our Nuffield Dental Oral Health Therapist, Joseph, shared tips on how to manage your child’s diet to improve his oral health during a Facebook Live session. Here’s a recap of the tips that he had shared in case you missed it.
What is the Importance of a Healthy Diet?
Providing your child with a well-balanced diet from young is essential to ensure he receives the fundamental nutrients for healthy growth and development. Consuming a healthy balanced diet does not only benefit his body but his oral health as well.
50% of Singapore’s pre-schoolers experience tooth decay (dental caries) today. That is a worrying number as childhood caries can lead to more general health issues in the future. Therefore, it is important to introduce healthy food choices into your child’s diet from an early age so that healthy habits will carry on into adulthood.
What should your Children Eat For a Well-Balanced Diet?
Your child’s diet should include foods from the basic food groups and subgroups with nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Examples include eggs, berries, meat, tofu, fish, cheese, broccoli, and don’t forget to include milk.
While it is essential to take note of the basic food groups and subgroups, you should also pay close attention to the calcium, phosphorus, and fluoride levels in his diet. These foods provide your child with proper nutrition for his body and oral well-being.
What Type of Food Should Children Eat for Healthy Teeth?
When choosing food to build your child’s teeth and gums, you should choose low cariogenic food, cariostatic food, and anti-cariogenic food as these foods help prevent tooth decay and improve dental health.
Low Cariogenic Food
Low cariogenic foods are unrefined carbohydrates with no added sugar. Food within this food group typically has a higher fibre content which helps to remove dental plaque. It is important to eat low cariogenic foods in moderation, as it can potentially lead to tooth decay without good oral habits.
Cariostatic foods are not a food source of bacteria. As bacterial fermentation does not occur, harmful acids that can demineralise your child’s tooth enamel are not produced.
Anti-cariogenic foods protect your teeth from tooth decay. Food from this group does not contribute to any acid formation in the oral cavity and buffers your tooth enamel against the effects of consuming cariogenic foods.
How can Children still enjoy Sweet Treats?
When your child is still growing, it is entirely normal for him to have a sweet tooth. As a parent, it is essential to remember that it is alright to allow your child to enjoy sweet treats, once in a while, in moderation. That means in small amounts or only a few times a week.
Here are a few tips on how you can encourage healthy dental habits:
- Do not allow your baby or toddler to fall asleep with his milk bottle in his mouth.
- Offer healthy snacks such as fruits and nuts instead of sugary treats like candy and cakes.
- Foods that contain sugar are safer for teeth when they are eaten as part of a meal, instead of a snack.
- Use a straw when drinking sugary drinks to reduce exposure time.
- Consume sugary foods at a go instead of over a period.
- Stop your child from storing food in his mouth (like a chipmunk).
- Avoid consuming food after brushing his teeth before bedtime to ensure that there are no remaining food particles left in his mouth.
What Type of Dental Products should my Child Use?
As soon as your child has developed teeth, you should encourage the use of fluoride toothpaste when brushing. For babies below three years of age, caregivers should use no more than a smear (grain-sized amount). For children between 3-6 years of age, caregivers should use a small amount of fluoride toothpaste (pea-sized amount).
As fluoride is essential in the demineralisation and remineralisation process of the teeth, it is good to introduce fluoride products into your child’s dental routine from an early age to resist decay and prevent tooth cavities.
Fluoride is effective and safe when used in moderate amounts. However, dental research has found that swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste can lead to dental fluorosis. Therefore, you should try to supervise your children when he is brushing his teeth to ensure that he is spitting along the way.
A healthy diet and good dental hygiene can go a long way in helping your child to develop strong decay-resistant teeth. It is important to encourage your child to make healthy food choices and use the right fluoride-based dental products to ensure that he understands the importance of taking care of his dental health.
At Nuffield Dental, we are dedicated to providing a comfortable and safe environment for all our patients, especially children. Do not hesitate to visit your friendly Nuffield Dental dentist or Oral Health Therapist if you require further guidance on how to care for your child’s teeth.
We look forward to having you and your little one in our dental clinic.