Many parents are unaware of the impact that diet can have on the oral health of their children. Food choices and eating patterns which are established during childhood can affect one’s health and well-being for the rest of one’s life.
Ingested food is broken down by bacteria, producing acid. Foodstuffs that stick to the teeth or dissolve slowly are more likely to produce acids that lower the oral pH.
This acid causes tooth enamel to dissolve and can lead to the formation of cavities. It takes about twenty minutes for this acidic environment to return to normal. Bearing this in mind, six acid attacks a day would be equivalent to acid being poured onto your teeth for a period of two hours.
Thus, the frequency of food intake is also an important factor impacting dental health.
In children, the importance of establishing a regular eating pattern cannot be over-emphasized. Three good, balanced meals a day (which include something from each food group) should be encouraged. Including protein in these meals would ensure that children do not get hungry as quickly, thus delaying the urge to snack on unhealthier, sugar-rich foodstuffs.
Sugar-containing foodstuffs should be limited to mealtimes as salivary flow is increased during these times, neutralizing the acid much quicker. Sugar-free snacks (including popcorn, cheese, crackers) should be limited to the times in-between main meals. Rounding off meals with water also helps remove acid build-up.
Good dietary habits together with a thorough oral hygiene regimen can ensure that children are not only cavity-free, but physically healthy as well.