3 Tips For Packing Tooth-Healthy School Lunches

Posted on: 2 October 2017

When your kids go back to school, you have a lot of things to think about, from new clothes to haircuts to school supplies. There's also the all-important school lunch to think about. Of course, you want your children to have healthy lunches when they're away at school, but making sure that lunches are tooth-healthy is often overlooked.

However, it's not hard to incorporate foods that help make a lunch better for your child's dental health. Take a look at some tips for making sure the food in your child's lunchbox helps support their dental health.

Pack Cheese Cubes To End the Meal

When you think of foods that help support tooth health, cheese is probably high on the list already. You have probably heard about the importance of dairy products in building strong teeth and bones since you were a child yourself. But cheese in your child's lunchbox can help your child's teeth for more reasons than you think.

Studies have shown that cheese helps to increase the pH levels in your mouth. When pH levels are too low, your mouth is acidic. Acid erodes tooth enamel, which can weaken the teeth and promote tooth decay. Eating cheese helps bring those levels back up, preventing erosion from occurring. Other dairy products, like yogurt and milk, do not have such a pronounced effect on the pH levels in the mouth.

This is especially helpful after eating or drinking acidic foods. Juice, citrus fruits, and sugary food are all examples of foods with high levels of acid.

In addition to raising the pH levels in the mouth, cheese also releases chemical compounds that leave a filmy coating over the teeth. This coating can protect the teeth from acids and bacteria for a time.

It only takes a small amount of cheese to activate these protective effects. Include some cubes of cheddar in your child's lunchbox, and encourage them to save the cheese for the end of the meal for the best effects. This will help protect your child's teeth after lunch until they get home.

Fill a Thermos With Water From the Tap

When it comes to hydration, there's no better beverage for your child than good old ordinary water. It has no sugars or acids to harm your child's teeth, no calories to contribute to childhood obesity, no added flavors or colorings to contribute to hyperactivity or stain the teeth. However, you may want to think twice before reaching for bottled water.

Bottled waters are everywhere, and they even come in small, lunchbox-friendly shapes and sizes. This may seem like the perfect solution for a lunchbox drink, but there's one problem: unlike the water from the tap in most cities, most bottled water doesn't contain fluoride. Or if they do, they don't contain enough fluoride.

Fluoridation of the drinking water has done a lot toward reducing the number of cavities in the population, especially among children. Fluoride is a mineral that helps to strengthen teeth and even repair weak tooth enamel through remineralization. It's absorbed into the teeth, making the enamel harder and helping the teeth hold onto new calcium and phosphate deposits.

But most bottled waters don't contain fluoride. The filtration process intended to make the water more pure filters minerals like fluoride out. Dental experts have expressed concern that the trend toward consuming more bottled water and less tap water is leading to more cavities and dental health problems.

It's easy to make sure that your child gets water with fluoride. Instead of tossing a bottled water into the lunchbox, fill a thermos or reusable water bottle with water from the tap. This way, your child's lunchtime beverage will help protect and strengthen their teeth.

Include A Celery Snack

If you're looking for a simple tooth-friendly tidbit to include for snack time, you can't go wrong with celery sticks. This fibrous vegetable can function as a type of natural dental floss – all of those stringy bits clean between the teeth as your child chews. Of course celery can't be a substitute for real daily flossing, but it's a great way for your child to get a little tooth-cleaning in during their school day.

Celery has other benefits as well. It takes a lot of chewing to get through a stalk of celery, and all of that extra chewing encourages more saliva production. Since saliva helps wash away bacteria and cleans the teeth, foods that encourage high saliva production, like celery, can actually help prevent cavities.

Celery is also high in nutrients needed for good gum health, like vitamin C, vitamin A, and a flavonoid called apigenin that helps reduce gum inflammation. Celery can even help improve bad breath.

During your child's next dental checkup, take the time to talk to your family dentist about your child's diet, and about strategies you can use to help keep your child's teeth clean and healthy when they're away at school for the day.