A good diet is important for your child’s overall growth and development. Like the rest of the body, the teeth, bones and soft tissues of the mouth also need a well-balanced diet. Children should always eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups:
- bread, cereals and other whole-grain products;
- milk, cheese and yogurt; and
- meat, poultry, fish and alternates, such as dry beans, peas, eggs and nuts.
Certain eating habits play a role in how foods affect a child’s teeth. The more often your child snacks, the greater the chance for tooth decay. How long food remains in the mouth also plays a role. For example, hard candy and breath mints stay in the mouth a long time, which cause longer acid attacks on tooth enamel and can result in tooth decay.
Dentally healthy snack options include popcorn, cheese, raw vegetables, nuts, gelatin, unsweetened yogurt, and sugarless gum or candy. But be aware. Even nutritious snacks and drinks will cause tooth decay if they are nibbled on or sipped frequently. Children like to “graze” which can be very unhealthy for their teeth.
It is important to have a good diet for your child’s teeth to develop the way they should. For strong teeth that are resistant to decay, children need protein, vitamins, and minerals, especially calcium, phosphorus and proper amounts of fluoride. Pregnant women should make sure that their diets supply adequate nutrients, because their babies’ teeth begin to develop as early as six weeks into the pregnancy and start to calcify between the third and sixth month of pregnancy.
Young children may not need as much food. They can have smaller servings from all the groups except milk, which should total two servings per day.