In addition to regular brushing with fluoride toothpaste, the food and drinks your child consumes have an important role in maintaining a healthy mouth. Outside of the commonly known advice to avoid sugary foods and drinks, the foods that are safe for teeth are less well known. Below is an outline of some of the best foods for your child's teeth as well as some foods you should only have as a treat and once or twice a week maximum.
Why Your Child's Diet Matters
A diet that offers a range of nutrients not only helps the teeth and gums grow properly, but it also decreases the risk of tooth decay. Establishing healthy habits early on will help to protect first the baby teeth and then the adult ones as they erupt.
What Foods and Drinks Are Best
Many baby foods and drinks are surprisingly high in sugar. In fact, almost all foods contain some sugars. Between meals, teeth need time to recover. Try to keep sugary foods and drinks to mealtimes only and not before bedtime. As a rule, note that the only truly safe drinks for baby teeth are milk and water. For healthy teeth, give foods that that provide protein, vitamins A, C, and D, folic acid, calcium, and minerals. These nutrients help strengthen enamel and ensure gum health.
The foods listed above are just some of the options that are safer for teeth. A balanced diet will provide your child with many of the vitamins and minerals the body needs to support a healthy mouth. If you’ve got any questions, talking to your child’s dentist or doctor may help.
Special Considerations for Babies and Toddlers
There are many things to keep in mind depending on your child’s age.
- For drinks, give only milk and water.
- Introduce your baby to a free-flow cup from six months on, and stop bottle feeding completely by 12 months.
- Try and restrict a sugary food to a meal time only and do not give sugary foods and drinks before bedtime. If you need to give your baby a bottle at night, only give them water. If they are currently on milk, over a few weeks you can dilute this with water so that by the end they are only drinking water.
- Check baby food ingredient labels to ensure no sugar has been added. Added sugar comes in many forms including honey, molasses, corn sugar, maple syrup, agave syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, sucrose high-fructose glucose syrup, and more.
- Safe snacks between meals should not contain sugar. Try fresh fruit, vegetables, breadsticks, cheese, and plain yoghurt.
- Avoid fizzy drinks, soft drinks, juice, and squashes sweetened with sugar as much as possible. In fact, none of those has any health value in a child's daily diet. Sweet drinks can lead to tooth decay, and babies who taste sugary drinks often struggle to move to safer options. Milk and water are best.
- Don’t worry if “bad food” moments occasionally happen. If you can, restrict giving sweet foods to mealtimes as this will reduce the damage to their teeth.
- Do not give sugary foods and drinks before bedtime and be sure to wipe your baby’s gums or brush their teeth before bed. If you give your baby a bottle at night, only give them water.
- Further advice is available from your health visitor, dental team, or other healthcare professionals.