The relationship between food, nutrition and the health of the mouth is not something often thought about. The two are undeniably linked with good oral health playing an important part of good nutrition. Paediatric Dietitian help children and their families understand this relationship and give "tips and tricks" on how to have healthy bodies, including the mouth. Here we explain why a healthy mouth is important and provide tips for helping kids to achieve good oral health.
Foods can hurt the mouth
Some food and drinks such as sugary, sticky and sour foods stick to teeth and provide fuel for the bacteria in our mouth to make acid. This acid is the worst enemy for our teeth, as it breaks down the strongest part of our body, enamel. Enamel is important as it protects the inner parts of the teeth acting as a shield against decay.
Foods that help the mouth
Food and drinks can also help to keep the mouth healthy, especially things such as crunchy carrots, apples and tap water. These foods act like “nature’s toothbrush” and give teeth a kind of polish whilst tap water (in most Australian States) contains fluoride which helps strengthen the teeth. Eating these foods doesn’t mean teeth brushing can stop (as brushing well is one of the best ways to keep the mouth healthy!).
Dairy products such as milk and cheese are particularly good friends of the mouth. The calcium and phosphorous found in these foods coat the teeth and form a protective barrier, like a castle, against the nasty enemies such as bacteria and acid. They also act to strengthen enamel for extra defence against the enemy. It is also better to opt for unsweetened options of these foods and drinks to limit the fuel for the bacteria in the mouth.
Healthy teeth make for healthy me!
Not only can foods affect the health of the mouth, the opposite is also true! When teeth are strong and healthy, they help in being able enjoy foods better. Healthy teeth allow for easy eating of a wide variety of foods and textures – crunchy, crispy, grainy, soft or chewy!
Top tips for looking after oral health (and nutrition) include:
· Pack Go, Glow and Grow items in your lunchbox.
o Go Foods include wholemeal breads/wraps/pasta, crunchy crackers
o Glow Foods include fruits and vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, sweet peas, apple slices
o Grow Foods include yogurt (unsweetened) tub, milk, cheese snack (slices, string, cream cheese dip)
· Tap water as it often contains fluoride (at very safe levels) which helps to strengthen teeth. Adding fruits and veggies to flavour the water can make it more appealing. Avoid adding acidic fruits like lemons or limes which can breakdown the enamel of teeth and choose options such as blueberries, apples, watermelon or cucumber instead.
· Brushing teeth well. 2 minutes is a good goal, if this seems a long time, you may like to try out an App, sing a song or discover a book that encourages your little one to brush well.
Text: V. Au 2018