Melissa Magstadt, South Dakota Secretary of Health

Choose healthy, nutritious foods for good oral health

A good diet is essential for a child’s growth and development. Like the rest of the body, the bones and teeth need a well-balanced diet. Eat a well-balanced diet based on

What you eat and how often you eat can affect teeth. Bacteria live in the plaque that forms on teeth. When we eat food or drink beverages that contain sugar or starch, the bacteria produce acids that attack the tooth enamel and cause decay. Frequent snacking means frequent acid attacks (that each last for 20 minutes) and an increased chance of tooth decay. Eating soft, sticky, sweet foods that stick to the teeth may prolong acid attacks.

If you must eat sugary foods, it is better to eat them with a meal. Avoid bedtime snacks, pop, or beverages because they can stay on the teeth, bathing them in sugar and acid throughout the night and therefore causing more decay.

Soft drinks have become a daily habit for a growing number of people, especially children, teens and young adults. This steady diet of soft drinks has become a leading cause of tooth decay. Sugar in soft drinks combines with the bacteria in the mouth to form an acid. This acid attacks the enamel of the tooth and causes yet another acid attack with every sip. If you do consume a soft drink, swish your mouth with water to dilute the sugar and interrupt the decay process.

There is no nutritional value in soft drinks. Drink water instead. It has no sugar, no acid, no calories and may contain fluoride which actually makes teeth stronger. Parents should try to set a good example for their children by cutting down their own soft drink consumption as well as keeping access to soft drinks to a minimum. Cold water and milk should be made readily available instead for thirsty young children.

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