February is recognized as National Children’s Dental Health Month. This observance brings together dental and healthcare professionals to promote the benefits of good oral health to children, their caregivers, teaches, and many others.

Healthy Connections offers dental services for both children and adults at our Community Health Network clinics in Mena (136 Health Park Lane) and Hot Springs (1723 Malvern Ave. Call 888-710-8220 for appointments. Visit www.healthy-connections.org/teeth for more info.

It quite possible many parents will have a common refrain at dinnertime tonight: “You’d better eat that. It’s good for you.”

But there’s another old favorite in the parental arsenal of dietary admonitions: “Don’t eat that. It’ll rot your teeth.”

Now more than ever, children are faced with a bewildering array of food choices – from fresh produce to sugar-laden processed convenience meals and snack foods. What children eat and when they eat it may affect not only their general health but also their oral health.

Americans are consuming foods and drink high in sugar and starches more often and in larger portions than ever before. It’s clear that junk foods and drinks gradually have replaced nutritious beverages and foods for many people. For example, in the U.S., on average, individuals consume approximately 50 gallons of sugary beverages per year! Alarmingly, a steady diet of sugary foods and drinks can ruin teeth, especially among those who snack throughout the day.

Common activities may contribute to the tendency toward tooth decay. These include – grazing habitually on foods with minimal nutritional value, and frequently sipping on sugary drinks. Consuming too much sugar can also affect your overall health, such as becoming overweight/obese, or getting heart disease or Type 2 diabetes.

When sugar is consumed over and over again in large, often hidden amounts, the harmful effect on teeth can be dramatic. Sugar on teeth provides food for bacteria, which produce acid. The acid in turn can eat away the enamel on teeth. Almost all foods have some type of sugar that cannot and should not be eliminated from our diets.

Many of these foods contain important nutrients and add enjoyment to eating. But there is a risk for tooth decay from a diet high in sugars and starches. Starches can be found in everything from bread to pretzels to salad dressing, so read labels and plan carefully for a balanced, nutritious diet for you and your children.

Reduce your children’s risk of tooth decay:

  • Sugary foods and drinks should be consumed with meals. Saliva production increases during meals and helps neutralize acid production and rinse food particles from the mouth.
  • Limit between-meal snacks. If children crave a snack, offer them nutritious foods.
  • If your children chew gum, make it sugarless.
  • Chewing sugarless gum after eating can increase saliva flow and help wash out food and decay-producing acid.
  • Monitor beverage consumption. Children should make healthy beverage choices such as water and low-fat milk.
  • Help your children develop good brushing and flossing habits.
  • Schedule regular dental visits. Call 888-710-8220 to schedule appointments with the Healthy Connections Community Health Network. We offer dental services in both Mena and Hot Springs.