Dr. John Sorrentino D.M.D

Family and Cosmetic Dentistry

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All Things Dental

Feeding Children for Optimal Dental Health

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As a practicing dentist one of the most difficult things I encounter is a toddler with a mouth full of cavities.  Having a young mouth restored can make children fearful of ever seeing a health care provider and set them up for a lifetime of fear  and neglect.  The parents, while often mean well, and always claim to be cleaning their child’s teeth do not realize that diet is much more important than how you cleaning the teeth.

Bottle Decay can be Devastating

Bottle Decay is Preventable

I remember when my children were young, they never got a real cup.  They used sippy cups.  While we all love the fact that we do not have to worry about spills a toddler should never be put to bed with cup that contains anything other than water.  No juice or milk, period.  Both milk and juice contain sugars that can pool in the mouth and lead to devastating decay.

The next point is that you have to stop thinking of sugar as a white powdery substance.  Sugar has many names.  High fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, cane syrup solids, and evaporated cane juice are just a few but there are many others as well.  Everyone knows that sweet things are bad for your teeth but natural sugars such as those found in fruit, are no better than refined sugar.

Starches are sugar in disguise.  Starches are sugar molecules in long strands.  All grains are starches but so are white potatoes and many other root vegetables.  They may not taste sweet but there is an enzyme in saliva called amylase.  This enzyme cuts the starch molecule into you guessed it, individual sugar molecules which are then free to cause decay.  I have had many parents tell me they would never feed their kid Frosted Flakes, for example, but would give their kids Corn Flakes.  I council them to give their children neither.  No cereal, not even Cheerios.

What about dairy?  Dairy contains sugar as well.  All mammals feed newborns on mother’s milk.  What mammal besides humans consume milk or milk products beyond infancy?  None.  How long should a mother breast feed?  People get into fights over this but I have reviewed the data on the Hadza Tribe of Tanzania.  They are considered the last true hunter gatherer society on Earth.  They breastfeed until about the age of 3.  I think that is a good guideline.

Now we have some late genetic adaptations that allow us to continue eating dairy and I enjoy cheese on occasion but there are a few guidelines.   Dairy contains sugar capable of leading to decay, lactose to be specific.  Never feed your children low fat dairy products.  You are just giving them a big sugar hit.  Stick to full fat and unpasteurized varieties.

As to what to feed your children to avoid a lifetime of decay?  I like things simple so let taste be your guide.   This is my golden rule:  Any whole food that tastes good to them is good for them.  Your and your child’s body will tell you what nutrients you need and create a hunger for those foods.   Starting at an early age let your child “explore” healthy foods for themselves.  The sooner you start this process the less likely you will have a picky eater.  From experience, meats, seafood, green leafy vegetables and fruit in season.  Remember fruit has sugar so it should not be an everyday food in the fall, winter, and early spring.  Avoid all processed foods and carbohydrates because they will override this mechanism.  Oreos will always taste better than Brussels sprouts

Evolutionary biology shows us that humans have walked the Earth for 2.5 million years.  No one had decay until about 10,000 years ago.  The toothbrush was invented about 3,000 years ago.   The evidence is clear.  You cannot avoid decay by meticulous cleaning on a bad diet.  Teaching you kids to eat right at an early age will pay dividends over their lifetime in optimal oral health.

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