If you want to keep your tot’s pearly whites shiny, bright, and cavity-free? These tips will help you to be savvy about the foods you’re serving up.
They’re just the first set of precious pearlies — if arguably the cutest — but chew on this: Your toddler’s baby teeth are also vital to a lifetime of happy smiles and healthy eating. Therefore how do you protect that toothy grin for the future? Even if you brush your little one’s teeth twice a day , plenty of sipping and snacking go on in between — and the reality is, your little one’s teeth are what he eats…and drinks. To keep his teeths in tip-top shape, you’ll need to serve up a menu that’s as good for his teeth as it is for his body. Fortunately, nutritious usually means tooth-friendly, too. Not surprisingly, a diet heavy in sweets and refined carbs is neither — sugars and starches are food to mouth bacteria, producing a tooth-eroding acid bath that can harm those pearly whites between brushings. To prevent tooth decay in your child, try these teeth-saving tactics.
The Culprit: Juice in a Sippy Cup
Juice is a darling of the sippy-cup set, but serving it up sippy-style is a recipe for cavities. Because most sippies, like bottles, release liquids slowly, there’s more time for that juice (which is very high in tooth-damaging sugar, even if there’s no sugar added) to pool in the mouth. Round-the-clock sipping adds to the mayhem, giving bacteria all the time they need to break down tooth enamel and trigger decay.
Teeth-Saving Tactic: When serving up juice, dilute it half and half with water, and serve no more than 4 to 6 ounces a day. Serve juice only with meals and snacks to cut down on tooth enamel wear and tear, and limit on-the-go sippy use to just water. Also consider swapping the sippy for a cup with a straw. Instead of encouraging fluids to pool in the mouth, a straw sends them on the fast track to being swallowed, so teeth are largely bypassed and protected.
The Culprit: White Foods
Toddlers aren’t known for their daring at the dinner table. They’ll find their favourite food and stick with it, meal after meal. But if those favourites are all white, all the time — white rice, white bread, plain pasta — it could lead to gum disease and tooth decay, since these simple carbohydrates quickly break down to sugars. Soft white bread and rolls are particularly harmful, even before you’ve added a smear of jam — and no wonder: They’re sticky enough to adhere to your toddler’s teeth. Roll up a wad of white bread into a ball and you’ll see why.
Teeth-Saving Tactic: Simply swap out the “white” versions of your tot’s favourites for whole-grains — brown rice, whole-grain cereals and pasta, and whole-wheat bread.
The Culprit: Cracker Snackers
Most toddlers are carbohydrates cravers, but when it comes to tooth health, there are better snack selections than the classic cracker. From goldfish to grahams, potato chips to bagel chips, many toddler-coveted snacks turn into sugar on your little one’s little teeth, posing as much of a cavity risk as…get this…candy.
Teeth-Saving Tactic: Tiny tummies fill up fast at meals, then need topping off in between — which is why snacks should be a staple of a toddler’s diet. Attack with snacks that won’t attack teeth, like whole-grain pretzels and whole grain crackers, preferably without added sugar. Add a side of cheese, which actually can help clean bacteria off of teeth (think of cheese as a toothbrush you can eat). To give bacteria fewer opportunities to munch on your munchkin’s pearly whites, limit your cutie to a single healthy snack mid-morning and another mid-afternoon.
The Culprit: Fruit Snacks and Raisins
Of course little ones are sweet on the most notorious of tooth enamel enemies, candy. But they’re also fans of fruit snacks, raisins, and other sticky treats widely (and mistakenly) believed to be wholesome and safer for teeth. The problem is, the stickier a food, the easier time it has clinging onto and in between teeth, not to mention settling into gums — where the sugars in it (whether added or naturally-occurring) promptly turn into a feast for bacteria. The result: placating your toddler’s sweet tooth with a box of raisins or all-fruit leather may put a smile on his face now…but wreck havoc on that smile later.
Teeth-Saving Tactic: Turn your tot onto succulent strawberries, luscious grapes (remember to cut them in quarters for safety), mouth-watering mangoes, and juicy melons as subs for harmful sticky sweets. For a sweeter treat that’s easier on teeth, opt for ice cream or even a little chocolate (believe it or not, a better choice than dried fruit).