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How Does Your Child’s School Lunch Affect Their Oral Health?

August 03, 2021

Did you know that lunchtime is one of the most important parts of your child’s day? If your little one isn’t careful, their food and drink choices could leave a lasting mark on their smile. Unfortunately, even options that are marketed as healthy can negatively affect your child’s teeth. Read along as we discuss how different school lunches impact your little one’s oral health and tips to help them keep a healthy smile.

How School Lunch Affects Oral Health

If your child is frequently eating a sugar-filled lunch, it can wreak havoc on their smile. The bacteria in the mouth like to feed on sugar, producing a harmful acid that eats away at the outermost layer of the teeth (enamel). Over time, this process wears down teeth and leaves them more susceptible to problems like tooth decay and cavities. Let’s take a closer look at how different school lunches can affect your little one’s oral health.

Cafeteria Lunch

There’s an ongoing national conversation about childhood nutrition where many people have spoken up about wanting to teach children how to eat healthily. Unfortunately, one thing that gets lost in this discussion is how certain foods can affect the teeth. Although legislation has improved the healthiness of foods cafeterias offer, here’s how a few staples affect dental health.

  • Chocolate Milk – Even though it contains the same basic nutrients as plain milk, it contains much more added sugar. It might be considered “healthy”, but it should really only be consumed in moderation.
  • Canned Fruit – Children see fruit and instantly assume it’s a healthy option, but these pre-packaged snacks contain unhealthy amounts of sugars and acids.

Home-Packed Lunch

Packing your child a sack lunch is the most ideal option because you have more control over their diet. However, be cautious of the following popular foods.

  • Juice Boxes and Pouches – These drinks contain excessive amounts of sugar and have little nutritional value. Instead, send your kids with water in their lunch as much as possible.
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich – Be mindful of the bread, nut butter, and jam you use because all three can be very sticky and sugary – a horrible combination for your teeth. Instead, consider using whole-grain bread, all-natural peanut butter, and fresh fruit.

Tips for a Healthy School Lunch

Are you packing a sack lunch for your child? Here are some tips for a mouth-healthy meal:

  • Include healthy foods that meet all their nutritional needs, such as whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and calcium-fortified dairy products
  • Pack a reusable water bottle and encourage your little one to drink as much water as possible
  • Prepare an oral hygiene travel kit that contains a toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss so they can keep their teeth clean after lunch

Is your child ready to return to the classroom? By teaching them how to make better dietary choices, you can have peace of mind knowing their school lunch won’t harm their beautiful smile!

About the Author

Dr. Tera Pollock earned her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Baylor College of Dentistry in 1993. She and the team at Rowlett Dental enjoy working with patients of all ages, doing everything possible to help them achieve and maintain their best smiles. If you’d like to learn more about how different school lunches affect your child’s oral health, you can reach Dr. Pollock via her website or call (469) 284-8895.

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