This week is Dental Health Awareness Week in Australia and so I wanted to shine a light on our children’s pearly whites. A recent report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has revealed that Australian children aged 5–10 have an average of 1.5 decayed, missing and filled milk teeth. These statistics are concerning, especially because unhealthy teeth are usually caused by poor diet. In fact, one of the greatest risks of an unhealthy diet is tooth decay for young children. Eating healthy food is commonly associated with avoiding obesity, behavioural changes, and a weak immune system. However, the foods we eat directly impact the health of our teeth and gums. And they do so from the minute we begin to chew in the first stage of digestion!
Introducing foods that are rich in fibre, calcium, B vitamins and vitamin D are excellent ways to boost gum and tooth health. While brushing and flossing is critical, diet is the top defensive tool against tooth decay. But getting kids to eat foods that are good for them and their teeth is sometimes easier said than done, so we’ve focussed on ones that can hopefully work in your family.
4 top tips for oral health:
- Choose wholefoods that are crunchy and help to physically clean teeth
- Choose chewy wholefoods that promote saliva production, which neutralises acid
- Choose foods rich in calcium, B vitamins, vitamin D and protein
- Avoid sugary foods and highly acidic foods
With this in mind, here’s a list of some key foods to focus on when working towards a shining smile:
Fancy another tooth brush during morning snack? Top of the list of foods for healthy teeth are apples with skin on! Since they are high in fibre, they act like a toothbrush, scrubbing away plaque and food debris from teeth – plus their acid content kills off the bacteria that cause bad breath.
Wish you could shine your kids teeth with a magic cloth? Offer raw carrots with meals and snacks! Chewing on a raw carrot has similar benefits to eating apples, with all that fibre working to gently wipe away debris and help teeth keep their sparkle. The vitamin A and B content helps to prevent gingivitis, which is the first sign of gum disease. Carrot-munching also produces lots of saliva, which naturally neutralises the acids in your mouth.
Easier said than done? We hear you! Boosting kids pasta sauces and muffins with leafy greens can be a good way to get them in. Leafy, dark greens such as kale and spinach as well as broccoli have all the teeth-cleaning benefits of carrots and apples, plus they’re rich in folate, calcium and vitamin B, so they keep teeth and gums strong and disease-free. Not always an easy sell but worth persisting with these - and remember, it can take a child up to 16 exposures with a food in order to accept it so don’t give up on these superfoods! If you need a little extra helping hand, check out my increasing veggies course or Veggies+ booster which contains a powerful dose of supercharged greens in every serve.
From the age of 5 when choking hazards are less of a concern, nuts and seeds are a nutritious snack and protein source for children, offering all the saliva-boosting, teeth-cleaning benefits they need. Walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts and peanuts also contain Arginine, an amino acid that when combined with calcium has shown to be effective in reducing cavities and eliminating gum sensitivity. Mix them into a homemade trail mix or muesli bar if your child doesn’t enjoy eating them by themselves. Nuts are an excellent plant based source of protein, but not all children are nut or protein fans. If you need an extra helping hand, check out my Protein+ products in Vanilla and Choc flavours to boost foods your child is happy to eat while they’re still learning to accept and enjoy proteins. For more ideas to increase protein in your child’s diet, have a look at my Power of Protein Course.
Low sodium cheese is a great option for kids – and one of the best foods for healthy teeth! A natural neutraliser, it’s a secret weapon in helping reduce the effects of acid attacks caused by sugary or citric foods and drinks – and of course, it’s an excellent source of teeth-strengthening calcium. Cheese for dessert to neutralise dinner? Give it a go! Check out my shopping course to learn how to read sodium levels to ensure the cheese you are purchasing ticks all the boxes. It’s complimentary when you sign up to My Wholesome Child.
Most people are aware that omega-rich salmon is great ‘brain food’ for kids – but with its high levels of vitamin D, it’s a superfood for their teeth too! Vitamin D allows the body to absorb and use calcium, which protects teeth and gums from disease. You can try fish fingers with salmon instead of white fish, or our Salmon and Millet Rissoles (recipes available in My Wholesome Child). UPDATE WITH RECIPES THAT ARE FREE IN MWC AND CONTAIN SALMON.
Probiotic promoting foods
Gut health is the foundation of a strong immune system, as well as healthy teeth and gums. You can support gut health by feeding kids foods that are rich in prebiotics and probiotics, for example, natural yoghurt, kefir and bone broth. You can cook pasta or rice in bone broth, or boost homemade smoothies with an ice cube of bone broth (and spoon of kefir) if your child won’t accept these foods in their natural state. Check out my homemade bone broth recipe in the Wholesome Child book.
Top foods to avoid for oral health:
- Processed foods, which are full of preservatives and artificial additives
- Dried fruit
- Sugary foods
- Fruit juice
- Highly acidic foods (sour lollies, soda, cordial, pickles, tomato sauce)
Some complimentary Wholesome Child recipes that tick the boxes for oral health that you may wish to try at home, include:
Spiced Vanilla Porridge (boosted with Protein+ Vanilla)
Strawberry Twist Banana Milkshake (boosted with Superfruits+)
Make sure you’re signed up to My Wholesome Child to see them all!
A final word...
If you have any concerns about oral health, chat to your family dentist. Remember, it’s never too late to improve your kids oral health and overall nutrition. Take it one mouthful at a time!