Julie M. Russo D.M.D.

Diplomate of the American
Board of Pediatric Dentistry

Nutrition

Happy child with fruit

How do I make my child's diet safe for his teeth?

First, be sure your child has a balanced diet. A balance diet includes foods from the following major food groups: Fruits and Vegetables; Breads and Cereals; Dairy Products; Meat, Fish and Eggs. Foods containing sugars and starches cause tooth decay. Foods with starch include breads, pasta, and such snacks as pretzels, goldfish crackers, and potato chips. There is hidden sugar in all sorts of foods. It can be added to your peanut butter, mayonnaise, salad dressing or many other processed foods. Be a label reader!

Should my child give up all foods with sugar or starch?

Not at all! You need to be sure to be selective with them. The stickier the food is, the higher the chance that it will form a cavity.

When is the best time to give my child a treat?

The best time is just after a meal and not in between meals. While your child is eating a meal, extra saliva is produced which helps to wash out the sugars. Each bite or sip of a sugary or starchy food or drink produces acids on the teeth for 20 minutes. So, if your child walks around with a sippy cup filled with a sugary drink, every sip results in 20 minutes of acid production. The child is better off drinking the whole cup at one sitting at a meal.

My baby is still on the bottle, what should I do?

Don't nurse your child to sleep or put her to bed with a bottle. If she must have a bottle at night, put only water in it. Sugars left in the mouth at night do the most damage. Most children leave the milk in their mouth while sleeping, sucking occasionally. Early Childhood Caries are caused by this habit.

The Food Pyramid

What are some good snacks?

Cheeses, yogurt, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, popcorn and unsweetened breads are good to give to your child. Water is the best drink to give them between meals. This helps them to establish a good lifelong habit of drinking water during the day.

What snacks should I avoid?

Sugary items such as soft drinks, sports drinks, sweet teas, lemonade and candies should be eaten for special occasions only. Avoid other sticky or chewy foods, including fruit roll ups, gummy bears, taffy, and chewy candies.