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By Randall Furman DDS
July 15, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
WorkWithYourChildsSchooltoEncourageHealthySnackFoods

There’s a new focus on children’s nutrition by both parents and schools; in fact, many school districts have instituted policies that encourage children to eat more nutritional foods and snacks. Regarding snacks in particular, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released new regulations for the Smart Snacks in Schools Initiative that call for more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and less fat, sugar and salt in snack foods.

These regulations will help fight obesity and related medical problems like diabetes, but many dentists don’t believe they go far enough in one particular area — the consumption of sugar, a major cause of tooth decay. Dentists also feel the guidelines are too generous in the amount allowed for highly acidic beverages like sodas, ice tea, sports drinks and energy drinks that increase the risk of enamel erosion and tooth decay.

You may also be concerned about how much sugar your child is eating, and for the most part you’re able to manage their intake when they’re at home. But what can you do to influence their snack choices and habits when they’re at school?

For one thing, get involved with your child’s school and with other parents. Let school officials know your concerns about the sugar, fat and salt content of the snacks offered in the school’s vending machines and food service, and work to implement policies that discourage less nutritional snack foods. You should also set limits for your children about what snacks they can buy at school — along with explaining why they should avoid certain kinds of snack foods in favor of others. And, be sure to send healthy snacks along with them when they go to school that are bite-sized and fun.

It’s also important to help your children limit how often they snack and avoid “grazing” — nibbling on snack food for hours on end. Grazing can cause the mouth to be continuously acidic and never allow saliva an opportunity to neutralize the acid. You can also suggest similar policies to school officials, such as shutting down vending machines at certain times of the day.

Nutrition is essential to good health, in the mouth as well as the rest of the body. As a parent, it’s your job to see that your children eat nutritiously — enlisting their schoolâ??s help will make that job a little easier.

If you would like more information on dental-friendly snacking, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Snacking at School.”

By Randall Furman DDS
June 11, 2014
Category: Oral Health
CatCoras6WaystoKeepKidsOffJunkFood

Junk food and between-meal sweets are a habit for many of us, even though we know it is bad for our bodies and our teeth. As adults, we are responsible for our own choices. As parents, we are also responsible for our children's choices, and for teaching them to choose wisely.

Celebrity Chef Cat Cora offers the following six suggestions for leading children to a healthy lifestyle. Cora is a star of Iron Chef America and author of Cat Cora's Classics with a Twist: Fresh Takes on Favorite Dishes, in which she reveals healthier versions of classic recipes. In her remakes she shows how to cook with a lot of flavor while reducing fat and sugar. Cora has four young sons, so her methods are not just theories — they have been practiced in real life.

1. Remember who's the boss.

“My kids have never had fast food,” Cora said in a recent interview with Dear Doctor magazine. “The parents have a choice to do that or not,” she said. “The kids are not going to the grocery store to shop; the kids are not driving themselves through fast food chains.”

2. Make your rules clear and stick to them.

“Right now my 7-year-old tries to be picky, but it's really about us being consistent as parents,” Cat said. For example, in her household pizza is served only at the weekly pizza and movie night. The kids get a healthier version of what they want, so they don't feel deprived. The evening includes air-popped popcorn without butter — and no soda, which is bad for teeth because of its sugar and other chemical ingredients.

3. Offer your children a variety of foods and tastes.

Cora made sure her children tried different foods and spices from infancy, so they are open to trying new things. It's easier to get all the nutrition you need if you eat a wide variety of foods.

4. Learn to make tasty substitutions for sugar.

When her children were babies, Cora stopped relying on bottles and sippy cups as soon as possible, reducing her children's likelihood of developing tooth decay due to sugary residues remaining in their mouths. Now that they are older, she uses tasty substitutes for sugar such as fruit purees and the natural sugar substitute Stevia.

5. Include the children in meal planning.

Kids are more likely to eat a meal they are involved in planning and cooking. For example, ask them which vegetable they would like to have (not whether they want to have a vegetable).

6. Model healthy behavior for your kids.

Parents are the best role models. This is true not only for food choices, but also for exercise and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about oral health. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cat Cora.”

By Randall Furman DDS
November 25, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
DietDosandDontsforOralHealth

What and how you eat and drink has a significant impact on the health of your teeth and gums. Therefore, an effective oral hygiene regime must take your diet into account.

Acid is your teeth's enemy; it can erode their protective enamel coating (a process called demineralization). Certain foods and beverages (such as citrus drinks and coffee) contain it, and it's produced by bacteria in your mouth that feed on dietary sugar and release acid as a byproduct (a process called fermentation). Your allies are foods and beverages that neutralize acids, provide minerals and vitamins to repair tooth enamel, and stimulate saliva.

Sugar & Decay
Sugars, the leading promoter of dental decay, exist in many forms in our diet. Some occur naturally, while others — referred to as “free sugars” — are added by the manufacturer, cook or consumer. The latter are most often linked with decay. Soft drinks are the primary source of dietary free-sugars in the U.S.

Sugars in fruit, vegetables, milk and unprocessed, starch-rich foods such as rice, potatoes and whole grains, do not appear to be harmful to teeth. Note, however, that dried fruits contain a highly concentrated sugar level and can stick to tooth surfaces. The sugar substitutes xylitol and sorbitol appear not to promote decay. In fact, there's evidence that chewing xylitol-sweetened gum three to five times daily for at least five minutes (after meals) stimulates saliva flow, which helps protect against decay.

Acids & Erosion
In addition to eroding tooth enamel, acidic foods and beverages create an environment where it's easier for decay-promoting bacteria to flourish. Saliva can reduce acidity but it must have time to work, at least 30–60 minutes. That's why behaviors that maintain acid levels, such as sipping coffee throughout the day, can be harmful.

Saliva-Promoting Saviors
Saliva is a front-line defense against erosion and decay. It helps remove food particles and contains minerals that help neutralize acid and promote remineralization of the tooth surface. Foods that stimulate saliva and/or contribute essential minerals include:

  • Cheese — stimulates saliva and is rich in calcium, contributing to the re-calcification of teeth and protecting against the loss of calcium,
  • Cow's milk — contains decay-counteracting calcium, phosphorous and casein,
  • Plant foods — are fibrous and require chewing, which mechanically stimulates saliva,
  • Water — keeps you hydrated, which is important for saliva production and preventing dry mouth (a condition that promotes acid-producing bacteria), and helps wash away food particles; fluorinated water bestows the protective properties of fluoride (a compound that makes tooth enamel more resistant to acid erosion and promotes re-calcification).

As you can see, brushing and flossing effectively is just part of the oral hygiene equation.

If you would like more information about nutrition and oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Nutrition & Oral Health.”