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All Smiles: Food and Drink Tips for Healthy Teeth

September 17, 2013 by Dean Simmons, Registered Dietitian

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Nothing warms the heart like a big smile from a child.

As parents and care providers we can help children keep a healthy smile by giving some thought to the food and drinks we offer them each day.

3 Tips for a Healthy Smile:

  1. Offer water between meals. Water helps to rinse sugars off children's teeth. Bacteria in the mouth feed on the sugar in sugary drinks, juice and even milk. The bacteria make an acid that can destroy tooth enamel over time and lead to tooth decay. Constantly sipping on drinks other than plain water between meals really takes a toll on teeth. Water is the best choice for thirst between meals and snacks.
  2. Limit grazing. When children constantly eat, the bacteria in their mouths use the sugars from the food to make acids which can work at breaking down tooth enamel all day long. Aim for 3 regular meals plus 1-3 healthy snacks per day. Offer snacks 2-3 hours before the next meal.
  3. Offer healthy snacks. Think of snacks as another chance to offer a child healthy food. Healthy snacks include foods from at least two food groups from Canada's Food Guide and can provide nutrients to keep teeth strong. Try fruit and hard cheese, cut-up veggies and Greek yogurt dip, or hummus and crackers. In addition to water, offer milk, fortified unsweetened soy beverage or 100% juice at meal or snack times—the extra saliva produced during a meal helps to neutralize the acid made by the bacteria (who are also enjoying the meal).

When it comes to getting big healthy smiles from children it certainly pays to keep these simple tips in mind each time you offer them food or drinks.

As Frank Sinatra famously sang, "When you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you," so let’s keep kids smiling.


Recommended Resources:
Canadian Dental Association: Nutrition for Children and Nutrition for Adults
Vancouver Coastal Health: Healthy Snacks for Preschoolers
Sip Smart! BC: Helping Your Child Make Healthy Drink Choices
HealthLink BC: Meal and Snack Ideas for Your 1 to 3 Year Old Toddler

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