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How Are School Lunches Affecting My Child’s Oral Health?

September 21, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — washingtondent @ 6:08 pm
Two children eating school lunches in bright cafeteria

You do your best to ensure that your child makes smart nutritional choices when they are at home. However, for a large portion of the year, they may be at school for at least one of their daily meals. Have you thought about how school lunches may be affecting your child’s oral health? Some items may promote a healthy mouth. Other items, however, pose a real danger to teeth. A dentist for children is here to talk about a specific way in which school lunches may affect your child’s oral health and how you can protect their smile even when they are away from home.

The Dangers of Sugar

Sadly, many school lunches have a high sugar content. When sugar combines with the bacteria in the oral cavity, they produce acid that weakens the tooth enamel and can eventually cause cavities. Especially since your child might not have the opportunity to brush their teeth after they eat lunch at school, their midday meal could be a major contributor to dental decay.

Sugar in school lunches might come from a few different sources:

  • The cafeteria. Ask your child’s school for a lunch menu. You may be surprised by how many sugary items you see.
  • Vending machines. Most middle schools and high schools have vending machines that give kids easy access to candy bars, soda, and other teeth-endangering items.
  • Other students. Young kids love to share. Unfortunately, this might mean that your little one is getting an abundance of sweet treats from classmates.

What You Can Do

Here are a few ways in which you can protect your child’s smile while they are at school:

  • Educate them. Use age-appropriate materials to explain to your child how sugar can affect their teeth. Help them discern the difference between healthy food and junk food.
  • Talk to the school district. If your local school’s lunch menu has too many sugary items on it, express your concerns to the school district. You may be able to encourage future changes.
  • Pack your child’s lunch. If you send your child to school with a bagged lunch, try to stay away from items like fruit that is packed in sugary syrup, super-sweet yogurts, candy bars, and other treats that could harm teeth. Something like a fresh apple can satisfy your child’s sweet tooth and give them a boost of energy. Calcium-rich items, like milk and cheese, are also easy to pack and great for teeth.

School lunches may pose a threat to your child’s oral health. By taking the steps above, you can help your young one to eat well even when they are outside of your direct supervision.

About the Author

Dr. Darren Tong is the on-staff pediatric dentist at Washington Dental Associates. He has more than 25 years of experience and has completed numerous continuing education courses. He is always happy to provide parents and children of all ages with practical guidance on how families can eat well for oral health. To learn more about Dr. Tong and the services offered at our practice, contact us at 201-453-4863. 

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