SUNDAY, Aug. 22, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Here's some back-to-school meal and snacking advice to help protect your children from tooth decay -- the single most common chronic childhood illness, affecting more than half of children aged 5 to 17 years.
"It is clear that junk foods and drinks gradually have replaced nutritious beverages and foods for many of our children," Kimberly Harms, American Dental Association (ADA) consumer advisor, said in a prepared statement.
"Dentists have a saying, 'Snack and sip all day, risk decay.' Constantly bathing the teeth in sweetened beverages and unhealthy snacks is like providing an all-you-can-eat buffet for the bacteria in your mouth -- the bacteria that cause tooth decay," Harms said.
The ADA offers some advice for parents on how to reduce children's tooth decay:
- Sugary foods and drinks consumed as part of a meal are less harmful than when they're consumed as a snack. That's because saliva production increases during meals and helps neutralize acid production and rinse food particles from the mouth.
- Limit between-meal snacks. Choose nutritious foods for snacks and consider chewing sugarless gum after a snack. Sugarless gum increases saliva flow, which helps wash out food and acid that causes tooth decay.
- Fluoridated water can help prevent tooth decay.
- Brush teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and floss daily.
- Encourage your children to eat more fruits and vegetables, less sweets.
The American Dental Association has more about oral health.