Contrary to what we once thought, children's dental health depends less on what they eat and more on how often they eat.
All types of sugars and starches and the foods that contain them can play a role in tooth decay. The acid-forming bacteria in the mouth that cause decay cannot tell the difference between the amount of sugar or starch in food.
For example, a lick of frosting can start the same acid attack as eating a whole cake. However, a child who licks a piece of hard candy every few minutes to make it last longer or slowly sips a sugared drink while studying is flirting with a high risk of tooth decay.
Such long-lasting snacks create an acid attack on teeth for the entire time they are in the mouth. So, what we are finding is that children who are snacking frequently have higher decay rates than children who snack less often. Snacks should be served no more than two to three times a day.
Try sticking with healthier foods like cheese, vegetables, yogurt, peanut butter and milk rather than sugary juices. Even chocolate milk is preferable to many popular drinks that provide energy but few nutrients. Milk is a significant source of protein, calcium and vitamins.
The most important thing for good dental health is for an adult to brush a child's teeth twice daily, after breakfast and before bed. An adult should always take a turn brushing until the child reaches age 7. "A clean tooth will not decay" no matter what you eat.
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Wild About Smiles Children's Dental Care is having a family recipe contest.
Entries will be published in the "Wild About Smiles Family Cookbook." Kids can use their creativity to design the cover. More than $1,000 in prizes will be awarded.
For information on the recipe and the cover design contests, go to wildaboutsmiles.net. The deadline for entries is July 15.
For information on diet and dental health, call Wild About Smiles at 887-9453.
n Submitted by Drs. Ruggiero and Francis at Wild About Smiles Children's Dental Care.