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Top 10 foods to prevent dental cavities in children (and how to make them eat those!)

Here's what your kids should eat to prevent cavities in their teeth.

prevent cavitiesChildren are more prone to cavities these days and apart from lack of oral hygiene, another reason is the kind of food they eat. Due to the consumption of junk food and foods rich in sugar, they have more number of cavities at a young age which leads to weakened teeth and impacts their overall oral health. If you wish to make your child's teeth stronger and less prone to cavities, here are a few food items which can help. Read on...

According to a leading periodontist Dr Minalli Vasandani Goswami from Sunrise Hospital, 'Make your children eat three kinds of foods foods which are our teeth's building blocks such as milk products, foods which act as cleansing agents such as fruits and foods which protect them by altering the pH level.'

'The best way to avoid cavities in children is to include a lot of natural and whole foods in their diet like fruits, veggies like carrots, beet, cucumbers, whole grains like brown rice, oats and sprouts, pulses, etc.,' says nutritionist Neha Chandna.

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Here are some foods which can help prevent cavities

Cheese: Cheese is known to increase the pH level of the mouth which reduces bacterial growth in it. It is an alkaline food ingredient which forms an alkaline film around the teeth and prevents it from decaying. Studies have shown that cheese prevents tooth demineralisation and cavity formation.

Tip: Have one small piece of cheese after meals (especially dinner). It is better to eat a slice of cheese raw than with bread as bread is high in carbs and can start the tooth decay process.

Raisins: The polyphenols and flavonoids in raisins help fight bacteria and reduce the prevalence of decay. Raisins are also known to keep the gums strong.

Tip: Though raisins are good for teeth, they can also be sticky so make sure that your child brushes after eating them.

Fish and poultry: Complete with proteins, and essential minerals and vitamins, fish and poultry not only prevent the drop in pH but also promote mineralisation and healthy tooth health.

Tip: Fish and poultry can be incorporated in form of sausages, sandwiches, rolls, etc.

Fibre-rich foods: Foods which have a lot of fibre or roughage are good for your teeth. Apples with their great fibre content help with the flow of saliva in the mouth that reduces food lodging in the teeth. Carrots are rich in vitamin A which helps in better antibody response of the saliva. The carotenoids in it help in protecting the teeth from cavity.

Tip: Eat them raw or add a bit of chaat masala to enhance its taste. Cut them in cute shapes to make them look attractive to kids.

Eggs: Eggs also prevent a drop in pH. They are a great source of protein, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D, etc which are essential for tooth mineralisation and hence is one of the ideal foods to prevent caries.

Tip: Eggs can be incorporated in various forms such as half boil, omelette, scramble, egg sandwich, egg roll, etc.

Cashew nuts: They are compact, energy giving foods. They are also rich in magnesium and phosphorous which are beneficial for teeth. Cashews contain anacardic acid which kills bacteria and prevents tooth decay.

Tip: A handful of raw cashew nuts every day can protect your kid's teeth. You can mix them with raisins too.

Cinnamon: It has anti-microbial properties which kills bacteria. As it has a very strong flavour, cinnamon powder can be sprinkled on the toothpaste or few drops of cinnamon oil can be diluted in 3 4 th glass of water and can be used for gargling.

Tip: You can add cinnamon sticks to pulav and ask your kids to chew on it after their meals.

Milk: Milk is a good option for preventing decay in children. Not only does it prevent the pH of the mouth to decrease, milk is also a rich source of calcium which is essential for tooth mineralisation. As per National Institute of Nutrition, India, each child should consume about 300 ml of milk every day. A word of caution for parents they must be careful to not add simple carbohydrates such as sugar or energy powders to milk as these simple carbohydrates tend to increase dental decay.

Tip: You can give milk with oats, cereals, or add fruits or honey in it to sweeten it naturally.

Cocoa powder: May sound shocking but cocoa prevents the growth of micro-organisms and reduces inflammation. It also reduces the growth of bacteria and enzymes that lead to tooth decay or cavity formation.

Tip: The best way to have cocoa powder is to add it in milk which is an amazing source of calcium.

Sugar-free chewing gum: Chewing gum increases the saliva production which protects our teeth by washing away the stuck food particles. They contain xylitol that is known to fight bacteria and it also prevents food lodging in the teeth.

Tip: Chewing a gum after a meal can be good your kid's oral hygiene. Make sure you buy a sugar-free one.

Some tips to keep in mind:

'Make sure you kid bites into his food rather than just swallowing it. Biting helps improve gum health, clears plaque off the teeth and aids in cleansing of the mouth. This reduces chances of bacterial attack on the teeth,' says Neha.

According to dietician Akansha Jhalani, 'It is important that kids gargle before and after every meal. Avoid giving them fizzy drinks but if you do, ask them to use a straw as it will protect their teeth's enamel from acidic damage.'

'Foods that contain fermentable carbohydrates which on contact with micro-organisms drop the salivary pH to 5.5 or less stimulate formation of dental caries. So avoid junk food and include protein-rich foods in your kid's diet,' advices Dr Neha Sanwalka.

Says Dr Minalli, 'You can give your kids ice creams but plain flavours in a cup are better than cone ones with choco-chips, etc as they can stick in their teeth and cause harm.' She also advises giving them berries as they help whiten teeth naturally.' Whatever your kids eat, make sure they brush their teeth after every meal to prevent cavities,' she concludes.

With inputs from Dr Neha Sanwalka, Akanksha Jhalani, Sneha Sadhwani, Dr Minalli Vasandani Goswami and Neha Chandna.

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