Cultivating a family kitchen garden is a wonderful way to teach young children healthy eating when it comes to good teeth foods. What are good teeth foods? According to family orthodontist Dr. Priscilla Larson of Sky Ortho in Moore and Shawnee, they are foods that contribute to the growth of strong bones and teeth, and support dental maintenance.
This is especially good during the summer months when kids have more time to focus on a project, and the entire family is looking for cool, refreshing treats.
Summer’s Sweet Treats Require Special Care for Teeth
Of course, during these sizzling summer months, cool sugary treats and drinks such as soda, ice cream, frozen pops and snow cones are favorite go-to for the entire family at the beach, poolside, on picnics and after play. But everyone, no matter what age, should brush soon after eating to ensure bacteria does not form.
While desserts are the obvious culprit, did you know pasta and bread can also create dangerous levels of bacteria in the mouth? So, also be sure to rinse and brush after those cold pasta salads, French bread po-boys and endless sandwiches.
Not All Fruits and Veggies are Good Teeth Foods
Milk and acidic foods and fruits can also cause problems. These eat away at tiny cracks in the enamel of your teeth and allow cavities to form. When this occurs, these cracks in your teeth will widen even more when you bite down.
“Drinking fluoride in your water helps but many people now drink bottled water,” said family orthodontist and mom, Dr. Larson. “This does not have any fluoride in it. It’s a good idea to ask your dentist about fluoride substitutes during your next visit if you drink a lot of bottled water.”
Getting Started on Gardening your Good Teeth Foods
For the sake of family gardening in a small area with children, we will focus on six good teeth foods that you can grow but there are many more.
If you live in an urban area, Dr. Larson also suggests engaging the family in planting a patio garden — or if you have a full-size yard, go bigger. To plant a patio garden with family, you will need the following or watch this easy to follow YouTube video with the Crafty Gemini:
- Long clay, plastic, or wooden planter boxes (18-24” long x 4-6” wide).
- Packets of seeds of your choice (one per box such as strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, spinach, onions, sweet potatoes, watermelon). You can also do kiwis and figs in a 15-gallon container.
- Good natural bagged garden soil.
- Only buy non-toxic sprays and fertilizers!
- Something to mark your pots so you will know what you have planted.
- Something to water with (a bucket or watering can).
- If you have little nibblers in the family, like Dr. Larson and her husband Erick do, they can put on their bunny ears while gardening and pretend to be rabbits!
The Good Teeth Foods Straight from the Garden
- Strawberries taste like candy and they also whiten teeth if you rinse after.
- Spinach and other leafy greens are high in vitamins and minerals, plus they have phosphorus, which is good for bones and teeth.
- Carrots have vitamin A which builds tooth enamel, Dr. Larson says plus chewing raw carrots removes plaque from your teeth and the chewing action produces extra saliva which supports dental health.
- Raw onions have many anti-bacterial compounds, removing oral bacteria with every bite. While they might give you bad breath, raw onions do a lot to remove bacteria and improve oral health.
- Sweet potatoes are another good one for your teeth due to their vitamin D content, a vital nutrient that develops naturally with healthy sun exposure. Unfortunately, in Oklahoma, where the weather is often dangerously hot, people stay inside. Dr. Larson says the vitamin D from sweet potatoes is crucial for healthy skin, heart and teeth, and a smart choice for dental health.
- Finally, a summertime favorite — watermelon. Watermelon is loaded with essential nutrients like Vitamin A that helps with good vision, Vitamin C which keeps the immune system strong, heals wounds, encourages healthy teeth and gums, and prevents cellular damage. Watermelon also helps prevent summer colds. The Vitamin B6 in watermelon is a nutrient that helps brains function better by allowing our bodies to convert protein into energy. Plus, watermelon is a great source of water and staying hydrated is important during the summer. Watermelon is hands-down, the favorite summertime low-fat, no-guilt, healthy treat.