7 Important Minerals and Vitamins for Kids’ Teeth and Gums
We all want a healthy, balanced diet for our kids. It’s no secret that a diet rich in veggies, fruit, whole grains, and clean protein goes a long way in growing healthy bodies and minds, including their teeth and gums! At Kids Mile High, we’re often asked what foods are good for children’s teeth so we’ve compiled this list of 7 important minerals and vitamins for teeth. Help your kids eat their way to a healthy smile for life!
You’re probably not surprised that calcium starts off our list of essential minerals and vitamins for teeth. After all, tooth enamel is mostly calcium, and getting enough calcium in your diet helps keep your child’s tooth enamel layer strong. The stronger the enamel, the more defense against tooth decay and cavities. You could say that Captain Calcium is a major player in maintaining your little ones’ healthy teeth!
Calcium is also good for bones as you might already know. But did you know that calcium is only stored in your bones and teeth? So with your bones gradually renewing every 10 years, it goes without saying that a steady intake of calcium is crucial for maintaining strong, dense bones throughout childhood — like your child’s jawbone. To get the most out of calcium-rich foods, health experts suggest pairing calcium intake with vitamin D. Now you know why the milk you buy at the supermarket is typically fortified with this tooth-friendly vitamin!
Foods With Calcium
Regardless of your child’s dietary restrictions or preferences, rest assured there’s plenty of foods with calcium to make sure your kids get the amount they need. Milk is a go-to for many kids, as are other dairy products like yogurt and cheese. That’s a pretty big win for teeth, since the calcium in milk products is also the most easily absorbed. Just double check the sugar content on your kids’ favorite dairy foods — milk products with too much sugar, like some flavored yogurts, can contribute to plaque build up. If cow’s milk isn’t part of your child’s diet, then fortified nut, soy or oat milks do the job, too.
In the veggies and fruits department, calcium-rich foods include broccoli, leafy greens like kale, bok choy and collard greens, soybeans, figs and oranges. You’ll get the most vitamins and minerals out of veggies if you cook them slightly; steaming or sauteing them is better than boiling.
Your little ones can also get calcium from beans, almonds, tinned salmon and fortified breads, breakfast cereals and oatmeal. It’s easy to include sources of calcium at every meal!
Here we’ve got calcium’s best friend! As we mentioned, vitamin D is an important partner in absorbing calcium from your food, moving it from your child’s gut and depositing it in your bones. In this way, vitamin D helps build bone density. You can think of calcium and vitamin D like Batman and Robin: they can do amazing things on their own but they’re more effective together! Vitamin D is key to a diet for healthy teeth; it contributes to fully developed teeth and protects against tooth decay and gum disease.
How to Get Vitamin D
Getting your kids outside isn’t just about taking a break from screen time. With just 15 minutes of direct sunlight on your skin, your body naturally makes vitamin D. That’s why it’s sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin.” Keep in mind that if you live in a seasonal place like we do in Colorado, you most likely have to stay outside in direct sunlight for longer than 15 minutes in the colder months. So when those gray skies or freezing temperatures aren’t so inviting, we, your Englewood, Central Park and Thornton pediatric dentists suggest you get your vitamin D from food. As one of the crucial vitamins for healthy teeth, your kids can get their vitamin D from eggs, fish, red meat, fortified milks, cereals and breads.
A diet for healthy teeth should include potassium. Just like vitamin D, it improves bone mineral density. Potassium also plays a defensive role: working with magnesium, it prevents your blood from becoming too acidic, which can cause calcium to leach from your bones and teeth. Potassium is also essential in blood clotting and helping gum tissue heal more quickly. If your child’s gums bleed a little from a baby tooth falling out, they’re new to flossing or they experience a tooth injury, potassium will help them heal faster.
More than likely, the first potassium-rich food that comes to mind is… bananas! And you’d be right. Bananas are an easy source of potassium.They’re a great, soft first food for babies and an easy grab-and-go snack for toddlers and older kids. We all benefit from having bananas in our diet!
Some other potassium options to include in a diet for healthy teeth are: dark leafy greens, potatoes, avocados and prunes. Dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese also contain the potassium that kids need for healthy teeth and gums.
While it might not come up as often in conversation as other minerals and vitamins for teeth, phosphorus is pretty important. Just like vitamin D, phosphorus helps you get the most out of your calcium intake so that your teeth are as strong as possible. This mineral helps your child rebuild and strengthen their tooth enamel against plaque and cavities.
Foods with Phosphorus
You’ll find phosphorus in many of the foods that also have calcium and vitamin D. Fortified milk and milk products, seafood like tuna and salmon, red meat, beans and lentils, nuts and whole grains are all high in phosphorus.
If vitamin D, calcium, potassium and phosphorus act like teeth builders, Vitamin K acts like a teeth protector in the family of minerals and vitamins for teeth. Vitamin K helps block substances that weaken bones and teeth and assists in your child producing osteocalcin, a protein that supports bone strength. Vitamin K also contributes to the healing process, kind of like potassium.
What to Eat for Vitamin K
That kale salad or spinach frittata has your child’s name on it! Again, leafy greens are a vitamin win. Your child can also find vitamin K in broccoli, eggs, hard cheeses, pork and chicken.
When we’re talking about vitamins for teeth, we can’t forget about the gums! Vitamin C is super important in helping strengthen your child’s gums and all the soft tissue in their mouth. Strong connective tissue in your kids’ gums keeps their teeth firmly in place, and helps prevent gingivitis and gum disease.
Foods with Vitamin C
Chances are, you know that citrus fruits are a rich (and kid-approved!) source of vitamin C. But did you know that you can also find vitamin C in potatoes, leafy greens, berries and peppers? When parents ask Dr. Paddy, Dr. Roger or Dr. Meredith about vitamins for strong teeth, we follow nutritionists’ rule of thumb: eat the rainbow! Colorful fruits and veggies pack a punch when it comes to being great for teeth and vitamin C.
If you’re wondering about the best drinks for teeth, we know that orange juice has vitamin C, as well as potassium and vitamin A. But as your Denver pediatric dentists, we agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics about fruit juice: it’s better to limit your child’s intake. Fruit juices have a lot of sugar without the fibre to balance it, so we recommend getting your vitamin C from whole fruits and veggies instead.
No post about vitamins for teeth should forget to mention vitamin A. Most people associate this vitamin with maintaining healthy eyes and good eyesight but vitamin A also contributes to healthy teeth, too. Vitamin A is known for helping you keep a healthy amount of saliva in your mouth, which helps bring down the higher acidity in your mouth to a more neutral or alkaline pH after you’ve eaten. This can help prevent erosion of your child’s tooth enamel, and therefore, they’re less susceptible to tooth decay.
Foods with Vitamin A
Your child’s daily dose of vitamin A can come from fish, egg yolks, or — we see a trend here! — leafy green veggies like spinach and kale. When it comes to vitamin A, an easy way to remember what foods are good for your teeth is thinking “orange”: orange foods have lots of beta-carotene, which turns into vitamin A in your body. So if your child likes oranges, apricots, cantaloupe, carrots or sweet potatoes, you’ve got vitamin A in the bag!
Working on Kids’ Healthy Teeth Together
It goes without saying that kids can get their vitamins for healthy teeth through a variety of foods and the teeth-friendly foods we’ve covered here can make up any meal. But, some parents worry a balanced diet isn’t enough and ask the team at Kids Mile High if their kids should also take vitamin supplements. Dr. Paddy, Dr. Roger and Dr. Meredith are always happy to talk with parents about this. We know that sometimes kids just aren’t into some of the foods that are good for their teeth. We’re here to talk about how we can all work together to provide vitamins for healthy, strong teeth on the daily. Contact us at our Englewood, Central Park or Thornton offices to get the conversation started.