Health Check: Brushing Up on Dental Health

By Larissa Phillips

February is national Children’s Dental Health Month, so there’s no time like now to rethink our approach to caring for our teeth. Increasingly, preventative strategies are looking past the candy aisles to larger nutritional initiatives, and focusing more on eating habits.

Sugars and cooked starches together comprise a dastardly force that causes cavities – which is unfortunate, considering our national love affair with the refined carbohydrate.

Contrary to popular assumption, it’s not just caramels and jelly beans feeding the oral bacteria. Chips and crackers are also culpable, and stick to the teeth even longer than sticky candies.

Dentists are also looking at the impact of our snacking culture. For example, saliva helps to neutralize the effects of acid-causing foods, diluting and washing them away. Since quick snacks of carbohydrates (and what other kind of snack is there?) cause less saliva flow than full meals, frequent snacking is now under fire as a major contributor to dental illness.

Other factors being considered in the war against tooth decay include nursing caries, caused by the teeth’s prolonged contact with sugar-containing liquids (which can include formula, breast milk, soy milk or juice) and low intake of nutrients such as protein, calcium, antioxidants and vitamin A.

For chompers that last for decades to come, cut down on snacking, brush after meals and snacks, drink lots of water and get your kids to the dentist every six months. For more tips on dental health, visit the American Dental Association Web site.

The Mothership Method - Blog by Larissa PhillipsFeeding Your Family feature articles for February 2009