Keeping Baby’s Teeth Healthy with Nutrition
If you think there is no need to worry about tooth decay in baby teeth that are just going to fall out to be replaced with adult teeth, you are not alone; however, this is incorrect. It is important to prevent tooth decay in baby teeth, because they hold the space for adult teeth. Aside from checking and cleaning your baby’s teeth and taking your baby to the dentist before they are one year old and regularly thereafter, there are few nutrition related strategies to help keep their teeth healthy.
First, is to avoid or limit added sugar. Babies should really not be consuming any refined sugar before 1 year of age. After that point, it should be limited to special occasions. Refined sugar can be found in soda, energy drinks, some juices, candies, cookies, cakes, puddings, and other dessert products. It can also be found in sweetened apple sauces, breakfast cereal, flavored yogurts, packaged bars, some tomato sauces, and some breads.
Unfortunately, sugar has many names on nutrition labels, so it is important to learn how to read a nutrition and ingredient label and what to look for. To make it even more complicated, some foods have natural sugars in them (e.g. yogurt, fruit), so just looking at the amount of sugar in the product isn’t enough. You also have to look at the ingredient list for some of the various names of sugar. This site has 61 of of them listed.
When it comes to juice, make sure you are choosing 100% juice for your children and check the ingredient list for added sugar. Rather than making juice a daily beverage, provide water instead, and save juice for special weekend brunches and other occasions. Always keep the amount to just 4-6 oz per sitting, and never give it in a bottle, always in a cup. Instead of juice, provide fresh, whole fruits or unsweetened applesauce/fruit purée to your child.
Second strategy to promote healthy baby teeth is to avoid putting your baby to bed (at night or for nap time) with a bottle. Breast milk, formula, juice, and soda all contain sugar, which when allowed to sit on your baby’s teeth for long can promote tooth decay. If your baby must have a bottle when going to bed, and they are old enough to drink water, put water in the bottle. Also avoid allowing them to walk around all day with a bottle or sippy cup filled with a sweet drink, including juice. And if you use a pacifier, never dip it in something sweet.
If you want to talk with me more about how to read a nutrition label and what to look for, or anything else nutrition related, make an appointment with me, Lauren Larson, MS, RDN, at the Colorado Center of Health and Nutrition by calling (970) 372-1277 today or scheduling online!
NIH. A Healthy Mouth for Your Baby. www.nidcr.nih.gov/oralhealth/Topics/ToothDecay/AHealthyMouthforYourBaby.htm.