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Health Expert Q&A

Dr. Sheala Lansden, Pediatric Dentist, Bluefish Dental & Orthodontics


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Can you recommend some school lunch ideas that are tooth-friendly? Which school lunch items should be avoided when considering dental health?

A As a mom of a three-year-old, I know packing lunches can be hard, especially with the temptation of using convenience food. Some schools in the Central Oregon area require lunches to include protein, fruits and vegetables.

Good protein options would be lunch meat, cheese, and hard-boiled eggs. Cheese actually contains the protein, casein, which is helpful in fighting cavities.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are great options: apples (also known as nature's toothbrush), carrots, and celery sticks can all help to cleanse the molars. If your child is hesitant to eat plain fruits or vegetables, you could always add something for them to dip them in like peanut butter.

We recommend limiting cookies and chips and completely avoiding fruit snacks and "sticky" candies.

Here are four of our favorite recipes, recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Head Start Bureau:

Nutty Balls

Roll softened cream cheese, cheddar cheese, or sugarless peanut butter balls in chopped nuts, roasted sesame seeds, or parsley. Chill before serving.

Stuffed Celery Sticks

Stuff celery with cream cheese or sugarless peanut butter, and top with sunflower seeds, roasted sesame seeds, paprika or caraway seeds.

Individual Pizzas

Cover half of an English muffin with tomato sauce. Sprinkle grated mozzarella cheese over the sauce. Broil in oven until cheese melts.

Nutty Cheese Cookies
1/4 lb. grated cheddar
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 Tbsp. oil
1/4 tsp. Salt
Dash of cayenne pepper
3-4 Tbsp. milk
1/3 cup finely chopped nuts

Mix cheese, flour, oil, salt, and cayenne until crumbly. Add milk and nuts. Form into 1-inch balls.

Place on oiled cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

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How do you know when your child is capable of brushing their own teeth?

A This is a common question from parents. A good rule of thumb is if a child has the dexterity to double knot their tennis shoes or write their name in cursive they ideally will be able to effectively brush on their own.

Encouraging them to brush for two minutes by using a timer or app on a phone will help as well. We still highly recommend parents supervise and "touch up brush" until they get the all-clear from the dentist.


When can my kiddo stop taking fluoride supplements?

A Our office does not advocate for systemic fluoride. We do highly recommend topical application of fluoride through toothpaste and mouthwash. If you would like further information we encourage you to have the conversation with your dentist.

 I know that sugar is bad for teeth but what about all of the natural sugar substitutes like Agave, honey, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar...? Are they any better?

A Great question!! The bacteria in your mouth that cause cavities, a.k.a "sugar bugs," do not care if the sugar is white, brown, organic or not organic. Sugar is sugar to them! Simple carbohydrates found in chips and cookies also convert to sugar in the mouth and provide the food needed for the sugar bugs to cause cavities. Everything in moderation.

We often recommend that if you or your children are going to have sugary food or drinks, it's best to consume them all at once, rather than frequently snacking or sipping. After eating, the bacteria in your mouth break down sugar and produce acid waste, which weakens enamel. It takes about 20 min for your body to bring the PH back to normal. Every time you snack or sip something sugary, the clock restarts. That can add up to A LOT of time throughout the day that teeth are exposed to cavity-causing acid.

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