What’s the Best Treat for Kids

boy smile blue

What’s the Best Treat for KidsWhile February can be full of love and tasty treats, it can be a hard month for your child’s oral health. Between Valentine’s Day parties at school, the goodies and heart-shaped chocolates they might receive from loved ones, and the Valentine’s Day treats that are always by the door at your favorite local shops, children have almost as much exposure to candy this month as they do in October! This exposure makes February the perfect time to re-evaluate the snacks that you’re giving your children, and really consider which snacks are the most beneficial to your children’s health.

Foods to Avoid

Choosing snacks that are loaded with sugar is not the best option for a number of reasons. Not only is sugar detrimental to your oral health, but foods containing a lot of sugar usually have quite a bit of fat in them as well. Processed sugar is one of the leading causes of tooth decay, especially in children, so it’s best to avoid these foods as much as possible and to brush your teeth immediately after consuming foods with processed sugar. If you don’t brush your teeth frequently or if you consume lots of sugary snacks, the sugar will react with the bacteria in your mouth to create an acid that can eat through the enamel of your teeth, which is how cavities are formed. Additionally, foods that are gooey and sticky can be an additional hazard to your teeth. These foods will stick to the surface of your teeth, intensifying this sugar-bacteria reaction and causing even more damage. This effect can last for nearly 20 minutes before it neutralizes, so brushing your teeth immediately after eating anything with this consistency is always recommended.

Foods to Consider

If you have a sweet tooth, there are still healthy options for your snacks! Consider fresh fruit or low-fat yogurt. You can even combine the two for your own healthy parfait. Be sure to only eat the recommended snack serving size for fruits and dairy, as it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Other healthy, dentist-approved snacks include:

  • Raw vegetables
  • Whole grain bread or crackers
  • Plain bagels
  • Unsweetened cereal
  • Unbuttered popcorn (be sure to floss afterward to avoid kernels getting stuck!)
  • Baked tortilla chips
  • Lightly salted pretzels
  • Pasta
  • Low or nonfat dairy such as cheese, milk, yogurt, or cottage cheese
  • Lightly salted or unsalted nuts, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds
  • Chicken, Turkey, or sliced meats

The key to choosing snacks that are both yummy and healthy for your mouth is variety. Always read food labels when grocery shopping and mix up your snack routine every now and then so that no one snack becomes “boring” for your little ones. Try to include each of the main food groups when planning meals and snacks, and stick to the recommended portion sizes.

Here at NoPo Kids Dentistry, we know that snacking on the go can be difficult, especially with kids. We are here to help educate and support you through the process of making healthy choices for your family. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact NoPo Kids Dentistry today!

GROWN-UP TIPS! The Good, the Bad, and the Acidic – What Summer Drinks are Better for Your Teeth?

drink lemonade glasses

Hello summer – hello iced drinks! A season of many barbeques, picnics, happy hours, and more… what beverages are teeth-friendly?

Coffee

Probably the most addictive (but tastiest) everyday stimulant – coffee. Did you know the average American drinks 3.2 cups of coffee EVERY DAY? The acidity alone in coffee wears away the enamel in teeth, making it easier for cavities to set in, plus it is a big contributor to staining of our teeth. Pro tip – drink a glass of water after every cup of coffee to rinse your mouth and teeth, but wait 30 mins or longer before brushing. Enamel that has been exposed to acid is more vulnerable to damage, so waiting for your saliva to naturally remineralize it is best to avoid brushing away vulnerable enamel.

Tea

Similar to coffee, the darker the brew the more likely you are to stain your precious pearly whites. Opt for a green tea or a lighter, fruity blend if you can’t bear to give up your caffeine. Pro tip, use a reusable straw to navigate the liquid away from your teeth. My favorite straws are here. I keep some in my purse, my gym bag, and my car, so I always have a more environmentally mindful straw available.

Lemonade

A summer staple, lemonade is a refreshing treat in moderation. However, most premade lemonade mixes are packed with sugar. If you need to satisfy your sweet tooth, maple syrup, agave, or honey can be used to sweeten some fresh squeezed lemon juice. Take note though, lemons are a very acidic fruit in the oral cavity and can damage enamel. Try to dilute your lemonade with more water and less lemon if you can.

Wine

The general rule of thumb is, if it can stain your clothes, it probably can stain your teeth. Don’t ditch the red sangria just yet though – white wine generally is more acidic than red! Be wary of sparkling wines – the combination of acidity plus the carbonation can lower pH and damage enamel. Moderation is key!!

Water

Even though this may be a “duh” answer, it’s important to stay hydrated over the hot summer months. Kids won’t always tell you when they’re thirsty, so look for signs of dehydration such as drowsiness/low energy, no tears when crying, or infrequent bathroom breaks. My pro tip – slice up some cucumber or toss in some fresh berries to add a little flavor. Remember, at NoPo Kids, we really emphasize water intake and feel staying properly hydrated it is one of the most valuable things we can all do on a daily basis for our bodies and our teeth!

Have a safe, fun, and healthy summer! And remember, we all should #eatarainbow daily to stay happy and well.

Love and health,

xo
Doctor Staci

So, What’s For Dessert?

donuts dessert

OK, I realize a lot of my recommendations with cutting out sticky snacks and treats may seem nearly impossible depending on your child’s palate at this point in time, but please trust that sugar is much like a drug and you can “detox” away from it and reprogram your child’s taste buds (and your own) to crave less sweet and carby foods. It will take time and commitment, but I know you can do it! Remember, this is for their dental AND overall health.

All this being said, kids are kids and they love treats! I am often asked what do I give my own daughters for dessert? My girls are offered dessert every night, but only if they have eaten nearly all of their dinner and at least have had “thank you bites” of things they don’t care for or things that are new. A “thank you” bite in our home means you at least take one small nibble to see if you like it (very often they realize they do) and if not, you “politely” push it to the side of your plate, all while being thankful for the person who prepared the food for you and for having a nice meal on your table. I got this idea from my sister-in-law, Jackie, and really think it is such a winner! It isn’t always rainbows and butterflies when we request the thank you bite, but I find the message to be very powerful and therefore it is something we keep encouraging with our kiddo’s, with or without the argument and fuss.

As for treats after dinner, I switch up the offerings with most nights being “fruit dessert” or “yogurt-ice-cream.” This means I give them the fruit of their choice or we take plain yogurt and add fruit with maybe a little granola (we try to make it ourselves to control the sugar added) and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup. Every other night or so, I offer real ice cream (preferably chocolate), popsicles (which again we try to make ourselves to control sugar levels), or dark chocolate. Dark chocolate (not milk chocolate) has many health benefits. It even has a compound in it called Theobromine that can remineralize teeth, so trying to get your child on the dark chocolate band-wagon is a wonderful challenge to begin. Start them out really young, or if you have an older child try to slowly buy chocolate with a higher and higher cacao percentage, trying to get up to 90% or higher and trying to find Fair Trade certified when you can. The more cacao and the less sugar, the better.

To recap, I am totally OK with ice cream, popsicles, and chocolate (the darker the better) because these things DO NOT STICK to the teeth. Sugars can easily melt away and be rinsed off with a few sips of water as opposed to sticky cookies, brownies, pastries, and candies that will stick on the chewing surfaces of teeth or get pushed down in between the teeth and sit for often hours, sometimes days if you aren’t flossing, before being brushed or flossed away. Now, I am not a baker, but if you are then attempt to limit these types of treats and do try to make baked goods with less sugar added (cane sugar is preferred as it is unrefined) or more natural sugar substitutes like apple sauce, coconut sugar, stevia, maple syrup, molasses, or honey. I do feel cooking with your kids is such a beautiful and beneficial activity, so again, if you do bake, be sure to include the kids and cut down on the sugar as best as you can. My kiddo’s get cakes and cookies and things on occasion, usually around holidays and certainly all birthday parties they attend. Again, kids are kids and we need to allow them to enjoy and experience life, but being aware and mindful about their treat choices is really half the battle.

More on cooking (and baking!!) with your kids in future blog posts and on my YouTube channel, Doctor Staci. Stay strong parents, you got this! And remember to try and encourage your children to Eat A Rainbow daily for optimal dental and overall health!

The information provided on this site is not intended as medical or dental advice and should not be interpreted as such. The intent is to provide as much scientific information as possible on different dental materials and aspects of dentistry where controversy exists and scientific clarification would be of benefit to patients, staff, dentists, physicians and scientists in making informed judgments. If you seek medical or dental advice, please consult with a health care professional. You must always exercise your own best judgement when using the services of any health care practitioner.

Crackers and Other Dried Snacks: Hidden Cavity – Causers

girl eating

I have been struggling with the fact that cavities are on the rise in pre-school aged-children, and it has often left me scratching my head…why? I cannot tell you how often I have to face a guilt-ridden parent to tell them that upon their child’s first set of dental x-rays (usually around 4 years old), that their child has EIGHT hidden cavities in between all of the back molars. We call these “flossing” or “surprise” cavities, and while not the type of surprise any parent wants, it can be a big eye-opener that something in the child’s routine and diet needs to change.

In dental school we are mostly taught to attribute cavities to poor hygiene and too much “sugar” (ie: candy, soda, juice…the obvious bad stuff). For years I personally always attributed these “surprise” cavities to lack of flossing, and while I do strongly feel flossing is incredibly important for your oral and overall systemic health, I still had so many parents say to me…”But, we floss almost every night?! We eat no sugar! Why does my child have cavities?”

Last May, I attended a conference where a very like-minded dentist lectured on how it is not all about hygiene, but rather diet. He inspired me beyond words. His biggest concern…CRACKERS. Yes, crackers. The main snack or food choice for many toddlers, children, and teens (adults, too!!). These dried bread/highly processed/refined flour foods are not only sticky, but break down into sugars extremely quickly in the mouth. Plus, kids tend to graze on them all day long or at least for long bouts of time and we know that the stickiness of the foods we eat (do they stick in the chewing surfaces of your teeth long after you eat them?) paired with the duration of time we eat them (ie: kids who graze, rather than eat organized meals at specific times) is what really makes the cavity-causing bacteria in our mouths thrive. Plus, during this process, acid is created, and these bacteria love an acidic environment.

Parents do look at me like I’m crazy when I say…”I really think you should significantly cut back or even eliminate processed foods from your child’s diet. Specifically: crackers, pretzels, dried cereals, dried fruits, granola bars, fruit snacks, etc.”

“But they are organic? Non-GMO?”

Turns out, cavity-bacteria do not care. They may even prefer organic sugar?! The point is, sugar is sugar, organic or not, and if it sits on the teeth longer, it is more likely to cause cavities.

“So, how can I do this? They are hooked on Cheddar Bunnies?”

I certainly don’t expect some magical over-night miracle to occur at your home…I am a mother first and foremost and get the parenting-survival-game. But if you can just slowly start buying fewer of these items and start bringing less of these foods into the home, you will get there. I promise. If they don’t get them at home, but still at school, OK. It is still an improvement. It may take time and there may be a few fits of rage from your kiddos, but I know you can do it. Stay strong! Remember, you are setting them up for a lifetime of success!

Parents often ask, “So what on earth do I feed my child for snacks if not crackers?” I am here to help. For those with children around 1-2 years old, use this information to help shape your child’s palate (don’t even offer crackers or dried grains or fruits! They will never know they exist! (until birthday parties or at school, but that’s another topic.). For parents of older kids, just try to gradually offer more real food. Things I offer my kids are: cheese sticks, TONS of vegetables, hummus or guacamole, seeds and nuts, nut or seed butters or avacado on whole-grain bread, real fruit (but be sure to limit fruit daily, too (not all day long) and be mindful of fruits lower on glycemic index, like berries and green fruits (apples, grapes, less-ripe bananas), tofu chunks, meat chunks, seaweed snacks (lower sodium ones better), pickles, olives, or other fermented foods, eggs, steel-cut oatmeal, plain yogurt (you can add real fruit to it), cottage cheese, and WATER or plain milk. One thing that really sets us apart at NoPo Kids is we spend a lot of time discussing diet with you and your child and less time nagging everyone about hygiene. Don’t get me wrong…hygiene IS important, especially flossing, but I truly believe our diet is the main cause of almost all human disease. If we have a clean, whole-food, low-acid diet we will live a happier, healthier life.

If you come and see us, my team and I will spend much more time discussing all of these dietary suggestions with you, as well as help you to find ways to motivate your child with their oral hygiene routine. Remember…at NoPo Kids we believe the mouth is not a separate body part from the rest of the system and strive to educate with a Whole-Body Approach. We teach kids to ”Eat A Rainbow” for optimal oral and systemic health and will work with you to find suggestions, tips and tricks that fit into your specific family needs. We’d love to chat more! Book an appointment with us today to help prevent future decay! #Nomorecavities #eatarainbow #wholebodyapproach

Love and Health,

Doctor Staci and the NoPo Kids Team xo


The information provided on this site is not intended as medical or dental advice and should not be interpreted as such. The intent is to provide as much scientific information as possible on different dental materials and aspects of dentistry where controversy exists and scientific clarification would be of benefit to patients, staff, dentists, physicians and scientists in making informed judgments. If you seek medical or dental advice, please consult with a health care professional. You must always exercise your own best judgement when using the services of any health care practitioner.