As a dentist, there’s something I’ve noticed about healthy kids. Kids that don’t have dental problems or disease are strong, happy, do well at school and sports. Why? They don’t live with the burden of poor dental health.
Today, kid’s dental health is one of my biggest concerns. It worries me because I see kids every day in my clinic with dental disease. Tooth decay is the most prevalent chronic disease in children today.
But it doesn’t stop there. Your kid’s dental health can have life-long effects on their whole body. Most parents go to the children’s orthodontist expecting them to be getting braces. It’s estimated that 70% of kids now develop crooked teeth. When kids have crooked teeth, it means their jaws don’t develop properly.
We consider this normal, but getting braces doesn’t address WHY your kid’s teeth didn’t grow correctly. The real cause is the foods they eat. In fact, nearly every problem I see with kid’s dental health is because they are eating the wrong foods.
The really important thing about your kid’s dental health is that food is the true way to have strong healthy kids.
In this article, I’ll explain how foods that strengthen teeth is the best way to make your kids grow up healthy and strong.
Feeding your child foods that avoid braces
Just like any muscle or bone in the body, your kid’s mouth needs exercise. The type of diet and foods they eat influence how their jaw develops.
This begins with breastfeeding, where tongue posture and nasal breathing help a newborns jaw to develop.
Soon after breastfeeding, the introduction of solid foods helps the facial muscles and bones develop.
Alongside chewing and breathing a child’s body needs the bone growing minerals. These are managed by the crucial fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin A and vitamin K2. Without a diet rich in these foods, a child’s body won’t grow strong, wide facial and skeletal bones.
Kids with crooked teeth have jaws that haven’t developed properly. They often have a thin face, wide palate and narrow dental arch. Orthodontic braces on kid’s teeth can straighten teeth, but it doesn’t address why the child grew crooked teeth in the first place.
But crooked teeth are related to many other health problems in kids.
Crooked teeth and lack of oxygen
You may think that getting braces is the quick fix for a child with crooked teeth. But the last thing you want to think about is your kid having oxygen deprivation. Yet nearly all the kids I see that need braces don’t eat right and they also don’t breathe right.
Jaw growth is probably one of the important ways to show how nutrition creates healthy kids.
The space for your kid’s teeth influences how their head and skeletal system is growing. When the upper teeth are crooked, the nasal sinuses are also smaller. This means that a child can have difficulty breathing through their nose. If a growing child has a habit of mouth breathing, it will stunt their posture.
When your kid breathes, it should be through their nose. Good breathing means straight posture that delivers air deep into the diaphragm. When your kid is mouth breathing, it causes the head to tilts forward in order to open their airways.
If you notice that your kid stands with their mouth open, look at their posture. You will often see them leaning with their head tilted forward. Head posture can even affect the development of the spine. Scoliosis may be related to crooked teeth, that is caused by incorrect breathing and nutrition.
But throughout your kid’s life, mouth breathing further stops the airways and jaws from growing. Small cramped airways can mean that kids have a chronic lack of oxygen. When they sleep, you may notice snoring, because their airways aren’t big enough.
Oxygen deprivation is harmful to a growing child’s brain. Snoring and sleep apnea symptoms in children is related to ADHD and behavioral issues. When your kid’s airways don’t develop, they are at risk of poor attention, school performance and lack of energy.
Healthy kids with straight strong teeth also breathe well. But it all begins with what they eat.
Oral bacteria and your kid’s gut microbiome
Nutrition is the best way to shape your kid’s oral and gut microbiome.
Every parent knows their kids love to eat sweets and sugar. When a child gets tooth decay, it’s a sign of imbalance in their oral microbiome. You understand the link between sugar and tooth decay. But how does an imbalance in oral bacteria, influence your child’s gut microbiome?
If your kid gets cavities in their teeth, it means that sugar has caused decay-causing bacteria to overgrow.
Diet and food are the best way to balance a kid’s oral microbiome. Foods that strengthen teeth deliver probiotic bacteria that actually defend against tooth decay. These strains of bacteria in the mouth stop the overgrowth of harmful bacteria like strep mutans. In a balanced kid’s oral microbiome, probiotic oral bacteria act to prevent tooth decay naturally.
A child’s oral flora starts from birth. Breastfeeding delivers bacteria from a mother’s gut to a child’s mouth. These microbes then establish a child’s gut microbiome. The interaction between mouth and gut continues throughout a child’s life.
In childhood tooth decay, harmful bacteria travel throughout their digestive system to the gut. Gut bacteria are a crucial part of your kid’s immune and digestive system. Imbalances in gut microbiota can disrupt the entire role of the digestive system. This includes digestion, the immune system, metabolism and even the brain.
Conditions that may begin in a kid’s gut include:
- Irritable bowel disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Celiac disease
Tooth decay in kids from sugar is a sign that your kid’s oral flora is imbalanced. While a dental filling may patch the problem up, long term nutrition to re-establish oral and gut microbiome is crucial for a healthy digestive system.
How nutrients for healthy teeth and mouth shape the immune system
Straight, strong teeth mean that a child has plenty of the nutrients that grow bone and teeth. It also means they have a healthy balanced oral microbiome. But strong teeth are signs that of wider childhood development.
The fat-soluble vitamins, especially vitamin D helps a child to absorb calcium and minerals. This helps them to have strong teeth. Without vitamin D, your child’s digestive system won’t even absorb calcium from their diet.
Vitamin D goes much further for your kid’s health than just ro prevent cavities.
Vitamin D acts much more like a hormone in the body. It mediates the immune system, making it more effective in protecting against disease. It is related to good digestive health and gut microbiome. It also may be linked to preventing the immune system from being too reactive, such as in allergies. A kid with a strong, stable digestive and immune systems also have strong healthy teeth.
But here’s the kicker. Both vitamin D and gut bacteria are crucial for kid’s brain health. The role of the digestive system and gut microbiome both influence your kid’s brain health. Kid’s that suffer from autism have been shown to have benefit from supplementation with Vitamin D.
The diet for healthy teeth and healthy kids.
Your kid’s dental health is the best way to measure their overall health. Kid’s with straight, strong teeth, that avoid braces and teeth cavities also have good digestive, immune systems, and brains! The benefits of healthy food simply don’t just stop at the mouth. Your kid’s dental health is paramount to the rest of the body.
And it all begins with a diet for healthy teeth!
7 ways that promote kids dental and overall health:
- Don’t give your kid’s mushed baby food
- When weaning a child to solid food, cut food into pieces that need chewing
- Give your child large raw vegetables to munch on
- Let them chew on meat left on the bone
- Foods rich in the fat-soluble vitamins such as organ meats, butter, and eggs.
- Lots of prebiotic fiber from fresh cooked and raw vegetables.
- Probiotic foods such as fermented yogurts and cheese.
How has changing your kid’s diet changed their overall health? Leave your questions in the comments below.
Post your comments below if you have any questions about a diet for oral health in kids or read our article on The Top 10 Foods To Strengthen Your Kid’s Teeth.
For more information on Dr. Lin’s clinical protocol that highlights the steps parents can take to prevent dental problems in their children: Click here.
Want to know more? Dr Steven Lin’s book, The Dental Diet, is available to order today. An exploration of ancestral medicine, the human microbiome and epigenetics it’s a complete guide to the mouth-body connection. Take the journey and the 40-day delicious food program for life-changing oral and whole health.
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I would be really curious to hear how we can make progress in our 8 year old. He has a small jaw and the bottom is set back much farther than the top. They are suggesting surgery in about 8 more years, but if there is something I can do currently to help, I want to.
Dr Steven Lin says
Hi Kristen, I would suggest seeing an airway myofunctional/airway focussed dentist. Your child’s tongue posture and nasal breathing is crucial for on going development. They have about 4 years of growth left so there is still correction that can be achieved.
Is there anything you can do if your childs teeth are already crooked? The dentist said she will need braces when shes older. Shes five at the moment.
Dr Steven Lin says
Hi Suzanne, correcting the functional (and nutritional) problems that caused the crooked teeth should be the goal here. While your child may need braces in the future, I would try and find an myofunctional oral health professional who can assess their tongue posture, breathing and facial muscles to find the cause of jaw growth inadequacy. Hope this helps. Steven
With the oldest, we did BLW and never offered purees or special “kid” food; we just gave her some of whatever we were eating. Her first foods were bone marrow and egg yolks sometime around 6 months. I still nurse her most days (she is 3) and I pumped at work until she was 18 months. We held off on grains until all 4 of her molars came in. Around 1 we began giving her cod liver oil off the spoon daily, and still do (probably more like 5 days a week now). Our whole family eats a more “traditional” foods diet (soaked, sprouted, soured grains, lots of vegetables, pastured meats from a farmer we know, eggs from hens on pasture, etc). Still, we will probably need myofunctional therapy (I think the sets her dentist uses are from Health Start).
Her upper jaw is wide and the baby teeth have HUGE gaps between them. The lower front teeth have some crowding. We have recently discovered she has a tongue tie and a significant upper lip tie, such that the front teeth will likely never close. She snores and breathes through her mouth and does not have a good lip seal. She still doesn’t sleep through the night at 3! Her speech is MUCH improved but she has been in speech therapy and/or special ed for a speech delay (expressive, not receptive at least) since age 2. So, nothing is perfect but we are doing our best. Luckily, since we eat like this anyway we didn’t have to try to convert her diet to something more nutritious, though now that she’s a toddler there is often some push back anyway 🙂
I expected you to mention sugar as one of the main things to avoid but it wasn’t mentioned on your list. And what about thumbsucking?
Dr Steven Lin says
Well spotted! Sugar consumption is an extremely important health message. This article was to outline purely what we should aim to eat, however, in The Dental Diet, we will outline and also support a complete 2-week sugar-free period!
Love the information you provided in this article. I am going to share it & save it to reference to later. All so very interesting – I didn’t know dental health effects the rest of the body so much. Can’t wait to read your book!
Dr Steven Lin says
Thanks Jacinta! Hope you enjoy it, yes the mouth is our best measure of whole body health!
All then best.
Darrel Pontejo says
This is a helpful idea to parents to guide them to take care of the teeth of their kids as well as the food they eat.
At a young age, we should already introduce our kids to healthy living. We should all start by giving them fruits snack perhaps or vegetables during meal time.