Protecting your child’s dental health is not always as easy as it seems. While it is common knowledge that foods such as sweets and sugary drinks have the potential to cause harm, seemingly ‘healthy’ snacks, such as dried fruits, can contribute to dental problems.
Although dried fruits are a good source of vitamins and minerals, these foods have had most of their water removed during the drying process and this means that they contain a much higher percentage of naturally occurring sugar than fresh fruits. Some manufacturers even add sugar to dried fruits to give them a sweeter taste. Many dried fruits, such as raisins and apricots, also have a tendency to stick to the teeth for a long time.
Foods that are both sticky and sugary are bad for the teeth as they provide the bacteria naturally present in the mouth with the energy they need to grow and multiply. These bacteria produce harmful acids as a waste product, which can eventually break down the surface of the teeth in a process called tooth decay. First, the enamel – the hard outer coating of the teeth – will soften. Then, over time, small holes called cavities develop in the enamel. When left untreated, these cavities can cause toothache and bad breath.
If your child needs regular snacks in between meals, it is best to provide fresh fruits and raw vegetables as, unlike dried fruits, these foods do not tend to stick to the teeth. They also stimulate the production of saliva, which helps to cancel out the acidity in the mouth after eating, reducing the risk of tooth decay.
While fresh fruits and vegetables are always the best option when ensuring your child gets their 5-a-day, it is important to remember that dried fruits should not always be off limits. If you choose to give your child dried fruits, encourage them to eat something non-acidic, such as cheese, afterwards to help counteract the acidity. Research has shown that cheese also increases the level of calcium in the mouth. Since teeth are partly made of calcium, eating cheese may add minerals to the teeth and prevent tooth decay from occurring.
To further minimise the risk of tooth decay, ensure your child waits at least one hour before brushing their teeth with a fluoride toothpaste. Brushing immediately after eating dried fruits could wash away the saliva that protects the teeth, raising the risk of tooth decay.
Image source: flickr
Disclosure: This post is brought to you from Toothpick