Cavities (or caries) are pretty common among school-age children. In fact, the CDC says 42% of children ages 2 to 11 have had cavities in baby teeth; 21% of those ages 6 to 11 have had cavities in permanent teeth. That’s a lot of tooth decay. While a cavity here or there may not seem that bad, a pattern of cavities in young children can lead to worse, and more painful, dental issues as they get older.
School is back in session and most children have short lunch breaks. The average lunch break across the United States is just 15 minutes. There is hardly enough time to eat, let alone take care of their teeth with brushing and flossing! It’s critically important to pack a lunch that not only fills kids up with nutritious food but won’t leave cariogenic (cavity causing) residue on their teeth for hours. In fact, there are some good foods that help prevent cavities, especially when brushing after a meal isn’t possible, and meet the nutritional needs of kids. As a bonus, most of these foods are kid-friendly and easy to pack in their lunchbox!
Best Lunches to Prevent Cavities
Let’s start off the list with lunchbox foods to avoid – they are probably some of your child’s favorites. You don’t have to avoid these foods completely, but we recommend eating them when tooth brushing afterwards is possible, in order to remove their residue. Foods like candy, cookies, cakes, crackers, white breads, muffins, potato chips, french fries, pretzels, bananas, raisins, fruit leathers and other dried fruits are particularly cariogenic. Juice, soda or any sugar-flavored beverage should also be avoided. These foods can get trapped in the crevices of teeth and feed plaque bacteria.
Some of the best, cavity fighting, lunchbox foods to eat are ones that can neutralize the acids created by plaque bacteria. Those foods are cheese, lunch meats, beans (like hummus) and nuts. Fruits and vegetables like apples, pears, cucumbers, carrots and celery all still contain sugar but also a high water content that lessens the impact of sugars on teeth. Instead of sugar sweetened drinks, milk or water can further protect teeth from the harmful acids produced by plaque bacteria.
At the end of your child’s lunch period, remind them to swish water in their mouth. While swishing water will not replace good brushing and flossing, it will help to clean the mouth and hopefully prevent cavities. Drinking water also helps your child stay hydrated, which in turn helps their body produce saliva – nature’s defense against harmful oral bacteria. Brushing teeth as soon as children return home from school is another step in maintaining a healthy, happy and cavity free mouth; making your next trip to the dentist a great one!
In Bozeman, MT our team of pediatric Dentists specialize in the care of children’s teeth. Contact Gallatin Valley Pediatric Dentistry to schedule an appointment.