School is just around the corner, which means backpacks and packed lunches await your young patients. Whether its their first year at school or they're already climbing the ranks, parents will want to ensure that their children are making healthy choices when it comes to lunch. However, one aspect they may not have considered when it comes to lunch options is dental health.
All ages are at risk of developing cavities, especially if they don't practice healthy dental habits, but dental cavities are a prevalent disease in our childhood population, says Kathleen Pace, D.D.S., assistant professor at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry.
Pace offers the following tips for parents to promote healthy dental habits in children:
- Eat Healthy Foods At Home
One of the easiest things parents can do to ensure their children will make healthy, tooth-conscious decisions at school is to eat healthy foods at home. Parents should aim to serve their children a balanced diet, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy products and protein.
Parents need to serve these foods at home so their children will imitate those eating habits when they are elsewhere, Pace said.
- Pack Fruits And Dairy
Milk doesn't just help their bones grow stronger, it can also help their teeth stay healthier as well. One of the best snacks you can pack in your child's lunch is a dairy product. Try throwing in a string cheese or a carton of milk to their lunchbox. Organic, grassfed, nonhomogenized milk is the best choice because it doesn't contain added synthetic hormones and antibiotics and is usually easier to digest and richer in vitamins and minerals.
Cheese or other dairies are a great way to end meals, Pace remarked. They can help protect tooth enamel, which is key to preventing decay.
- Avoid Sticky And Sugary Foods
Frequent sugar consumption is one of the worst things for your teeth that can cause tooth decay. Unfortunately, sugar is in almost everything, Pace said. Avoid packing food with extra sugar like cookies, sugary beverages or candy in children's daily lunches. Sugary, prepackaged snacks may be convenient short term, but they may also help a cavity thrive later on.
Check all the sugar content on any prepackaged foods or snacks, and opt for more natural or low-sugar foods instead. Switch out your kids sugar-loaded applesauce for the no-sugar-added variety. If you're having trouble thinking of appropriate snacks, fruits with peels can satisfy a child's sweet tooth without promoting cavities.
- Be Active In Their Dental Care
Encourage parents to participate in their children's morning and nightly teeth cleaning rituals, and teach them the tools to keep those pearly whites healthy and happy. Parents can also take it a step further by acting as a dental advocate to promote healthy habits in their children.
Children love to imitate, so let them watch you brush your teeth and floss. Or even better, do it with them, Pace suggested. Really try to have your kids brush their teeth after breakfast.
Healthy habits start at home, so parents should try to make their child's formative years fun and memorable. While brushing teeth, they can also sing a favorite song or play a catchy tune on their phone to make it enjoyable, and always serve them healthy foods at home. These are habits they'll take with them throughout their lifetime.
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