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15 foods that get a thumbs-up from your child’s pediatric dentist (and 15 that don’t!)

Healthy eating habits, just like good oral health habits, begin in childhood and deliver a lifetime of positive rewards. Sometimes those priorities are at odds with one another, but here at Summit Dental Center your child’s pediatric dentist is first and foremost concerned about one thing: Your child’s teeth!

THE GOOD: Foods your pediatric dentist recommends to help keep your child’s teeth healthy

  1. CHEESE

Teeth love cheese, especially hard types like aged cheddar and Parmesan. Munching on cheese cubes provides calcium for strong teeth, lowers the acid level in the mouth to help prevent cavities, and increases the production of saliva. What’s not to love?

  1. MILK

Like cheese, milk delivers a ton of calcium and lowers acid levels in the mouth. Got milk?

  1. WATER

Refreshing, thirst-quenching, life-sustaining and – yes – awesome for your kiddo’s pearly whites! Offer a cup of water after every meal and snack to wash away leftover food particles and kick saliva production (the body’s natural defense against plaque and tooth decay!) into high gear.

  1. SPINACH, KALE & BROCCOLI

Leafy greens contain lots of vitamins A, C, E and K, along with folic acid and a good amount of calcium. Raw is best!

  1. FATTY FISH

The best way to get a nice daily dose of Vitamin D is some playtime in the sun. If that’s not an option, consider serving up some wild salmon or tuna, both of which are high in Vitamin D.

  1. NUTS

Cashews, almonds, and Brazil nuts are excellent choices for adding calcium and phosphorus to your older child’s diet. Go nuts over nuts, as they help wipe out cavity-causing bacteria.

  1. GUM

Sugar-free gum helps keep the saliva flowing to wash away food and bacteria. And, of course, blowing bubbles is tons of fun!

  1. FRESH CRANBERRIES

Plaque does NOT like cranberries, because those red little powerhouses keep plaque from forming in the first place. Boom!

  1. STRAWBERRIES

Serve up a load of Vitamin C and antioxidants with this popular fruit! Strawberries also contain malic acid, a natural teeth whitener. Best of all, strawberries are one of the few foods universally liked by children of all ages!

  1. YOGURT

Smooth, fruity, Greek – take a pick! Ward off cavities, gum disease, and even bad breath with this calcium and probiotics-packed treat!

  1. CARROTS

Crunchy, full of vitamins and minerals, and oh-so-yummy – carrot sticks should be a staple snack for any kid.

  1. APPLES

An apple a day may not keep the dentist away entirely, but it sure can help keep your child’s teeth healthy and strong, thanks to the many vitamins it contains.

  1. WHOLE GRAINS

Did you know that whole grains like oatmeal and brown rice can lower the risk of gum disease? Well, now you do!

  1. RAW PEARS

Pears help neutralize acid that can weaken teeth, making them the pear-fect snack whenever.

  1. CELERY

It’s like natural floss for your teeth, so chew on that!

THE BAD: Foods your pediatric dentist says are the worst for your child’s teeth

  1. SODA

If you need yet another reason to avoid sugary soda drinks in your child’s diet, here it is: Soda wreaks havoc on your kiddo’s teeth. Drinking a soda is like soaking your teeth in sugar. Plus, soda contains a lot of acid, which can weaken tooth enamel and make your child’s pearly whites more susceptible to cavities. That goes for diet drinks, too!

  1. SPORTS DRINKS

Sound healthy? Not so, our pediatric dentists say. Most sports drinks are full of sugar and acid, just like sodas. Yep, the acidity goes even for the diet varieties.

  1. FRUIT JUICES

Fruit juices are loved by little kids everywhere, but they can spell trouble for your child’s teeth. You guessed it…sugar and acid – yet again! If your little one simply can’t go without his daily dose of apple juice, be sure to rinse his mouth with water afterward.

  1. STICKY CANDY

That decadent, chewy caramel you love so much? Keep it out of your child’s reach if you can. Better yet, pass on it yourself! Lots of sweetness combined with sticky gooiness mean you’re practically bathing your teeth in sugar for a long period of time. Cavities, anyone?

  1. HARD CANDY

Cracking a piece off your tooth is no fun. Neither is eroding your tooth enamel. You don’t chew hard candy, you say? Allowing the candy to slowly dissolve in your mouth isn’t a good idea, either. Once again, bacteria love the sugar bath and quickly get to work on creating cavities on your pearly whites.

  1. SOUR CANDY

Less sugar, you’d think – and you’d be wrong. Not only does sour candy contain just as much sugar as its sweeter counterparts, it also comes loaded with all kinds of acids that can damage your child’s tooth enamel. Brushing right after won’t help. In fact, it can make matters worse by damaging the enamel even more!

  1. DRIED FRUIT

Those raisins your little one loves to snack on spell trouble for his teeth! Check out the sugar content on the box and you’ll see he may as well drink a soda. Plus, many dried fruits are sticky, which makes eating them just about as bad for teeth as chewing on gooey caramel. Encourage your child to snack on fresh fruit instead!

  1. ORANGES, GRAPEFRUIT & LEMONS

You already know that citrus fruit are rich in Vitamin C. Unfortunately, they’re also super high in acid. Lemon and grapefruit are the worst of the lot, while oranges aren’t quite as acidic. If your child loves citrus fruit, be sure to have him wash away the acid with plenty of water.

  1. CANNED FRUIT

Lots of sugar plus acid equals – you guessed it! – weakened tooth enamel and a greater risk of cavities. How about a crunchy fresh apple instead?

  1. CRACKERS

No actual sugar here, but a bad choice for your teeth nonetheless! Most crackers are nothing more than empty carbohydrates that get mushy when your child chews them. Saliva then breaks down the carbs into sugar. Be sure to have your kiddo rinse with water to keep the goo from getting stuck between his teeth and creating a hotbed of bacteria!

  1. POTATO CHIPS

Like crackers, chewed up potato chips tend to get trapped between teeth and stay there for a long time. Rinse with water and floss after munching on potato chips!

  1. WHITE BREAD

A childhood favorite, white bread turns into a gooey mass when chewed and, with the addition of the enzymes in saliva, the carbohydrates it contains turns into sugar. Opt for wheat bread instead to help protect your child’s teeth!

  1. POPCORN

If you’ve ever had a popcorn kernel stuck between your teeth, you already know about the dangers of this favorite movie snack. Trapped pieces can irritate your child’s gums and facilitate bacteria growth. In the worst case scenario, un-popped kernels can even chip a tooth!

  1. PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY

The high sugar content of jelly combined with the stickiness of the peanut butter (and maybe even white bread!) make this beloved snack a terrible choice for your child’s teeth. Rinse with plenty of water afterward if your child can’t go without!

  1. PICKLES

Pucker up and say no! Some kids enjoy the sourness of pickles, but the acid content (stemming primarily from vinegar) in this crunchy treat can wreak havoc on your child’s teeth. Rinse with plenty of water after enjoying pickles on your sandwich or alone.

Tooth-friendly snacking seems to rule out a lot of favorites, doesn’t it? In reality, PB&Js and popcorn are the stuff childhood is made of, and sometimes the nutritional benefits may even outweigh any concern for teeth health. Just be sure to keep plenty of water on hand to minimize damage, and teach your child proper brushing and flossing techniques. Here’s to a lifetime of happy, healthy smiles!