Child Diet and Dental Health Tips

Child DentalWe are 15 days into the New Year. Last year, I made big health and wellness changes in my life. I am making it my goal to implement changes into my daughters’ health and wellness for 2013. Pediatric Dentist, Dr. Martha Hardaway from the office of Drs. Mayhew, Scheffler, Conn and Hardaway in Boone, NC is sharing her child diet and health tips with us.


If children have poor diets, their teeth may not develop properly. Children need protein, vitamins and minerals, especially calcium and phosphorous, to build strong teeth and resist tooth decay and gum disease.

Parents should select meals and snacks for dental health and for general health, providing sound nutrition as defined by “MyPlate” of the US Department of Agriculture. Snacks, served no more than three times a day, should contribute to the overall nutrition and development of the child. Some healthy snacks are cheese, vegetables, yogurt, peanut butter and milk.

Sugars are essentially the same, whether natural or processed, to cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth. All types of sugars and the foods that contain them can play a role in tooth decay.

A child who licks a piece of hard candy every few minutes to make it last longer or slowly sips a sugared drink while studying, is flirting with a high risk of tooth decay. Such long-lasting snacks create an acid attack on teeth for the entire time they are in the mouth.

Cooked starches (fermentable carbohydrates) can lead to cavities just as sugars can. In fact, such cooked starches as breads, crackers, pasta, pretzels and potato chips frequently take longer to clear the mouth than sugars. So the decay risk may last even longer.

A food with sugar or starch is safer for teeth if it is eaten with a meal, not as a snack.


Children’s dental health depends less on what they eat and more on how often they eat it. Food does not cause tooth decay, but constant eating does.

About 90 percent of all foods contain sugars or starches that enable bacteria in dental plaque to produce acids. This attack by bacterial acid, lasting 20 minutes or more, can lead to loss of tooth mineral and to cavities.

Acids present in carbonated beverages can have a greater negative effect (ie, erosion) on enamel than the acids produced by bacteria from the sugars present in sweetened drinks.

Research showed 13 percent of children aged 2 through 10 had diets high in consumption of carbonated soft drinks, and these children had a significantly higher dental caries experience in the primary dentition than did children with other fluid consumption patterns.


Certain cheeses have been shown to have characteristics that disrupt the development of cavities when eaten alone as a snack or at the end of a meal.

Cheeses such as aged cheddar, swiss, mozzarella and monterey jack stimulate the flow of saliva, clearing the mouth of food debris and acting as a buffer to neutralize the acids that attack teeth.

The calcium and phosphorous found in cheese also reduce or prevent decreases in pH levels of saliva and promote remineralization of tooth enamel.


  • Ask your pediatric dentist to help you assess your child’s diet.
  • Provide a balanced diet and save foods with sugar or starch for meal times.
  • Limit the number of snack times. Choose nutritious snacks.
  • Do not provide sodas or sweetened tea to your child.
  • Shop smart. Do not routinely stock your pantry with sugary or starchy snacks. Buy “fun foods” just for special times.
  • Do not put your young child to bed with a bottle of milk, formula or juice.
  • If your child chews gum or sips soda, select products that are sugar-free. Recent evidence suggests the use of
    xylitol chewing gum can decrease a child’s caries rate.

Drs. Mayhew, Scheffler, Conn and Hardaway office is located at 373 Boone Heights Dr. in Boone. Please feel free to contact them via phone (828) 264-0110. If you have any questions, you may leave them in the comments section on this post or email us.


  1. jessesToons says

    Thanks for sharing this article, its just what I was looking for. I just married and my husband has a little girl and I have never played the whole mom role before I want to go at this the right way and be the best mom. I guess she has a dental appt coming up and I need to know as much about dentists. These were really helpful tips and information! Thanks again, very helpful!