February is National Children’s Dental Health Month!
Guest Post By: Laura Chalela Hoover, RDN
My son came back from school on February 14th with a backpack filled with Valentine’s cards, and of course, candy.
Don’t get me started on the perceived need for kids to share candy at every holiday. That’s another blog post for another time. But since February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, it seems like the perfect time to talk about how everything from Valentine’s Day treats to everyday snacks impact our kids’ dental health, for better or for worse.
According to Jonathan Shenkin, D.D.S., a spokesperson for the American Dental Association, “The plaque on your teeth contains bacteria that feeds on sugar and releases acid that attacks teeth. Continual sipping and snacking subjects your teeth to continuous acid attacks which could lead to the breakdown of tooth enamel that might eventually lead to cavities.”
Well, that doesn’t sound smile-friendly, does it? So beside brushing and flossing, what can we do to help our children protect those pearly whites?
Here are five snack ideas that can help protect your child’s dental health:
- Milk and Cheese: dairy foods are thought to protect tooth enamel by providing calcium and phosphorus, which are needed to help remineralize the enamel. Try these fruit and cheese kabobs for a kid-friendly, after-school snack.
- Cashews: The oil in cashews has been shown to help fight the bacteria that can lead to tooth decay. A healthy trail-mix – like Jodie’s Aunt Mickey’s trail mix (with cashews added in) – can be a filling, smile-friendly snack.
- Apples: Firm, crunchy fruits like apples have a higher water content, which lessens the effects of the sugars they contain. Plus, they stimulate saliva production, which also helps to prevent tooth decay. These apple sandwiches are a favorite in my home. To make them more tooth-friendly, skip the raisins and add extra granola.
- Carrots: Carrots and other crunchy vegetables, help to stimulate saliva flow, which washes away food particles and buffers acids that can eat away at tooth enamel. Offer carrots with dip for a snack your child is sure to enjoy.
- Water: Go with the flow. Let’s not forget about good, old fashioned water. It’s the perfect snack beverage. No recipe required!
Laura Chalela Hoover, MPH, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist who lives in Chicago with her husband and two young children. She is the founder of Smart Eating for Kids, a site that shares yummy nutrition ideas, kid-friendly recipes and smart strategies to manage picky palates and other obstacles.