The key to caring for your teeth is nutrition. Setting up your kids to have strong and healthy teeth that are free of cavities requires a variety of nutrient-rich foods. The best foods for growing kids teeth provide essential vitamins and minerals, and neutralize cavity-causing acids.
What Not to Eat
Before we dive into the goods, lets talk about the bads. While its okay to let your children have a treat now and again, try not to let sugar become a staple food. Excessive sugar consumption is the root cause of many health issues, including tooth decay. Sugar disrupts the balance of calcium and phosphorous, which messes with the production of enamel and breakdown of toxins. Do your best to cut refined sugar, syrups, processed grains, and dried fruit out of your childrens diets. If they do have a sugary snack, have them brush their teeth or rinse their mouths with clean water right after.
From the Inside Out
Cod Liver Oil is a great way to get the nutrition of livers with less of the taste. There are liquids that can be mixed into smoothies or taken with liquid vitamin C supplements (another tooth-friendly essential), and kid-sized cod liver oil capsules that might be easier to get past the Ew, liver?! response.
For the vegetarians and vegans, flax seed oil, coconut oil, avocados, and walnuts provide many of the same nutrients in smaller amounts, though you may wish to consider supplementing with (ethically and humanely-sourced) cod liver oil on occasion.
Raw dairy from happy, pastured, grass-fed cows provides essential calcium, healthy fats, phosphorous, and protein. Raw cheese helps scrub teeth clean while providing concentrated doses of those nutrients. Raw yogurt and kefir have the added benefit of providing probiotics, which lower the levels of unhealthy bacteria and help with the breakdown and absorption of nutrients.
If you cannot (or choose not to) have dairy, give your kids coconut or almond yogurt. Just be sure that they are getting plenty of healthy fats (so not the reduced fat versions) and that the products are unsweetened. Consider childrens liquid probiotic supplements if they are not having yogurt.
Nuts and seeds provide many tooth-building nutrients. Almonds and sesame seeds in particular are high in calcium; walnuts are high in folic acid, magnesium, and potassium; and pistachios have magnesium and beta-carotene. Like vitamin D, magnesium is necessary for the body to absorb calcium. The fat in the nuts makes the vitamins more accessible.
Green Tea (and Other Greens)
While it is important to monitor a childs caffeine intake, one cup of green tea daily can be incredibly helpful. Green tea kills plaque, prevents the formation of new plaque, and fights cavities. I have found that a little green tea after meals did not make my kids hyperactive, it actually seemed to help their digestion a bit. Just serve it with food, not alone when the caffeine might be overwhelming.
Celery is great for naturally cleaning the teeth. It also stimulates production of saliva and massages the gums.
Dark leafy greens like kale and arugula provide many essential nutrients. They should be eaten with sesame seeds or tahini to balance their potential interference with calcium absorption, as well as healthy fats like avocado or olive oil to get all the vitamins.
Sweets We Can Live With
We want to go easy on the simple sugars, but some fruits are helpful for teeth. Kiwis are particularly high in vitamin C, as are red bell peppers (technically a vegetable, but worth sneaking in with your kids sweet treats if you can).
And yams (sometimes called sweet potatoes) and other dark orange vegetables supply vitamin A, help strengthen tooth enamel, and promote gum health. My girls loved having orange pudding (basically mashed yams) as a not-too-sweet dessert.
Give your children foods that support tooth health to help them have the healthiest pearly whites possible. Avoid sugar, processed grains, and dried fruits. Supply them with healthy fats, raw yogurt, and other healthy fats. Give them calcium, magnesium, and vitamin-rich nuts, seeds, and vegetables. And enjoy those big toothy smiles from healthy mouths.