September is a very exciting time for students and parents alike, but are we spending enough energy on making sure our kids’ oral hygiene is looked after while they are away from home?
When considering the best snacks to send with my child for school, the thought of packing healthy lunches and snacks that our children will actually eat – that are still good for them and healthy for their teeth – can be overwhelming.
We all know that diet has a significant impact on cavities, so we thought that this was an important time to review what some of the best “tooth friendly” options are.
The best tooth-friendly snacks are as follows:
- Apples: While we recommend steering clear of most sweet foods, there are some exceptions. Fruits, such as apples, might be sweet, but they’re also high in fiber and water. The action of eating an apple produces saliva in your mouth, which rinses away bacteria and food particles. The fibrous texture of the fruit also stimulates the gums. Eating an apple isn’t the same as brushing your teeth with toothpaste that contains fluoride, but it can tide your kids over until they have a chance to brush.
- Carrots: Like apples, carrots are crunchy and full of fiber. Eating a handful of raw carrots at the end of the meal increases saliva production in your mouth, which reduces your children’s risk of cavities. Along with being high in fiber, carrots are a great source of vitamin A. Top a salad with a few slices of raw carrots, or enjoy some baby carrots on their own.
- Celery: Celery might get a bad reputation for being bland, watery and full of those pesky strings, but like carrots and apples, it acts a bit like a toothbrush, scraping food particles and bacteria away from the teeth. It’s also a good source of vitamins A and C, two antioxidants that give the health of your gums a boost. Make celery even tastier by topping it with cream cheese.
- Almonds: Almonds are great for your teeth because they are a good source of calcium and protein while being low in sugar. Your children may enjoy a quarter cup of almonds with their lunch. You can also add a handful to a salad or to a stir-fry dinner.
- Cheese: If your children profess a love of cheese, they now have another reason to enjoy this tasty food. It’s thought that the chewing required to eat cheese increases saliva in the mouth. Cheese also contains calcium and protein – nutrients that strengthen tooth enamel.
- Yogurt: Like cheese, yogurt is high in calcium and protein, which makes it a good pick for the strength and health of your teeth. The probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, found in yogurt also benefit your gums because the good bacteria crowd out bacteria that cause cavities. If you decide to add more yogurt to your diet, choose a plain variety with no added sugar.
- Leafy Greens: Leafy greens typically find their way onto any healthy foods list. They’re full of vitamins and minerals while being low in calories. Leafy greens such as kale and spinach also promote oral health. They’re high in calcium, which builds your child’s tooth enamel. They also contain folic acid, a type of B vitamin that has numerous health benefits, including possibly treating gum disease in pregnant women. If you have trouble getting leafy greens into their diet, add a handful of baby spinach to your next salad or throw some kale on a pizza. You can also try adding some greens to their smoothie.
In today’s society, the most common snacks we give our children are sugar and starch based, and this results in more cavities. Starches are changed into sugar when they enter the mouth. Our saliva contains an enzyme that changes the starch into sugar to help aid in digestion. It is because of this process that starches can be a large contributing factor in tooth decay.
When considering snacking and children’s teeth, we recommend (for example) a glass of milk, a slice of cheese or ham, and a piece of fruit. This is a nutritious snack that is both filling and tooth-friendly.
As it can be difficult to have children brush at school after lunch or snack, ensuring that they do so in the morning before school and again following their after school snack, will help limit the harm to their teeth. Rinsing with water at the end of school lunches or snacks is a great way to cleanse the mouth.
We wish everyone a tooth friendly school year!