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- Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods
- Enjoy healthy snacks
- Avoid snacking on sugary and sticky foods and sweets between meals
- Milk foods help protect your teeth
- Chew sugar-free gum to help protect your teeth
Eating a wide range of nutritious food is vital to good health. Sugar containing foods cause dental decay because of the plaque being able to break down the sugars to produce acid. This then dissolves the tooth structure. Sticky food that adheres to teeth is much more dangerous to the teeth as it disappears slowly and continually produces acid that dissolves the teeth. It is the frequency of eating sugar, not the amount of sugar in particular that is related to decay. Along with increasing the risk of decay, an increased consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and snack foods has also been linked to obesity. Health risks associated with childhood overweight and obesity are strong indicators for the chances of adult illness and death and include type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and psychological stress, as well as respiratory, bone and liver problems.
Snacks that are healthy to eat between meals include cheese, vegetable sticks, fresh fruit, plain yoghurt, wholegrain sandwiches and soups. The act of chewing stimulates saliva flow that in turn neutralizes the acid formed by plaque making sugar-free gum, a small portion of hard cheese or raw vegetables an excellent choice at the end of, or in between, meals.
Tap water should be encouraged as the drink of choice between meals. Having sugar-containing drinks also can lead to dental decay. Acidic and sugary drinks can cause tooth surface loss through decay (related to sugar content), and erosion (related to acidity). The effects of sugary drinks are increased when sipped slowly, or when they are swilled round the mouth before swallowing. They should not be put in baby’s bottles, nursing cups, drink bottles for drinking occasionally: only tap water should be used in this way.
In addition, long-term use of syrup medicines, which have a high concentration of free sugars, can cause tooth decay and gingivitis.