All parents want their children to have beautiful smiles... showing off healthy teeth. It's a sense of achievement to know they have raised healthy and happy children. And good dental health means looking after your teeth to prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
MOST parents are aware that one of the ways to keep teeth healthy is by brushing regularly but what many are not aware of is the important role diet can play in good dental health. As the saying goes "we are what we eat".
Adequate nutrition, particularly during the early years, is important for tooth development, eruption and maintenance, as well as for salivary gland function.
Many mothers are not aware that most of a child's teeth are already formed by the time the baby is born. So it is essential for pregnant mothers to get enough of the required nutrients, especially calcium. This can be obtained from drinking milk or taking calcium supplements.
Young children also need lots of calcium to support the continuing growth of their jawbones and permanent teeth. How is calcium contributing to strong teeth? First, as the teeth form and mineralise, they need adequate calcium and phosphorus to form a hard structure. This takes place over a long period of time. Having an adequate amount of calcium and phosphorus during growth is critical for healthy teeth.
Recent research indicates that mothers' food choices, by influencing their children's dietary habits, impact the eruption of primary teeth during the first three years of life and future development of dental caries.
Second, calcium makes jawbones strong and healthy too. Jawbones need to be strong as they hold the teeth in place. There is no denying that milk is a good source of calcium and this is why milk plays an important role in building healthy teeth.
Other than calcium and phosphorus, milk also contains vitamins A and D. vitamin A is important for maintaining the mucous membranes of the mouth and Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption for healthy bones, teeth and growth of the jaws.
Choosing the right food for children helps strengthen their teeth but giving the wrong food too often will affect their dental health. Most parents can easily relate sugary foods to tooth decay. The decay process begins when the bacteria in the mouth breaks down components of saliva. These components adhere to tooth enamel. This is the start of dental plaque.
Dental plaque is a clear, gelatinous material that allows bacteria to remain on the teeth. If dental plaque is not removed frequently (at least once a day) by proper brushing and flossing, the plaque becomes tightly attached to the tooth and only mechanical cleaning can remove it.
This is why frequent visits to a dentist and regular, thorough cleaning by a dental hygienist is very important. Inside this dental plaque, the bacteria ferment dietary carbohydrates for a food source. This fermentation produces lactic and other acids. These acids demineralise the tooth enamel.
As the tooth demineralises, bacteria move into the tooth, decay begins and a cavity is formed. Therefore, to reduce the risk of tooth decay, it is important to minimise sweet and sticky foods and drinks..