Children’s teeth go through a development phase. The primary teeth are “softer” than adult teeth. These more vulnerable teeth are also at risk of decay because of some of the foods children eat. Between ages six and 12 years children have a mixture of their primary and permanent teeth, and continued protection is required.
Many children’s diets are high in sugar provided by foods such as juices, sodas and candies. Sugars are lethal to tooth enamel as sugar reacts with the bacteria in plaque on the teeth, producing damaging acids. This acid over time breaks down the surface of the teeth causing cavities.
Acidic foods also erode the tooth enamel. The lower the pH of the food the more acidic it is, and those foods with pH lower than 5.5 may cause tooth decay. Foods which are alkaline have a higher pH and neutralise the acid effect of sugar.
Mineral water 7.6, milk 6.9, cheddar cheese 5.9
Orange juice 3.8, grapefruit juice 3.3, soda 3.2, vinegar 2.0
The child’s general nutrition is important; ensure he/she is fed a variety of foods from the food groups. Include protein-rich food sources that are also rich in calcium such as sardines and other fish with bones, dairy and green leafy vegetables. The diet should also provide other nutrients essential to tooth health such as phosphorus; animal foods are good sources of phosphorus.
vitamin C is also essential and good sources are fruits and vegetables. Vitamin A, an essential nutrient, can be found in eggs, milk and green vegetables and vitamin D found in cod liver oil and other oily fish as well as from the sunshine.
How can parents include some of the acidic but healthy foods in their children’s diet? They can reduce sugary foods, especially those which will stick to the surface of teeth; have sugary and acidic drinks during meals so acid can be neutralised; avoid sugary drinks and acidic drinks between meals, instead provide milk or water.
Children eat often, so provide them with healthy snacks, including cheese, nut-butter, vegetable sticks and other forms of neutralising foods. End meals with a neutralising food with desserts like cheese and advise children to rinse mouth or drink water after meals, whichever is more possible.
Have children brush and floss teeth at least in the mornings and before bed with a toothpaste containing fluoride, and ensure they have regular dental checks.