Milk for Your Child's Healthy Mouth

Minh Nguyen

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Studies show that most kids don't get the calcium they need. In fact, more than half of teenage boys and girls don't get enough calcium. Bones grow most during the childhood and teenage years.

By eating and drinking foods with calcium, children and teens can build up calcium-rich bones for now and for when they are adults. This calcium helps keep bones strong and may prevent them from getting fragile and breaking later in life.

Milk and other dairy foods are excellent sources of calcium. Calcium is a mineral that helps make teeth strong and healthy. Even before baby teeth and adult teeth come in, they need calcium. And after teeth come in, they continue to take in calcium so they can develop fully. Calcium makes gums healthy. Getting enough calcium as a young adult may help prevent gum disease later in life. Calcium makes jawbones strong and healthy too. Jawbones need to be strong - they hold the teeth in place.

According to the Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, National Academy of Sciences, 1997, one 8-oz glass of milk contains 300mg of calcium. Children between ages 1-3 need about 500mg of calcium (one and on-half glass of milk). Children between 4-8 years old need about 800mg of calcium (two glasses of milk). And children of 9-18 years old need 1300 mg (four glasses of milk).

Kids can get calcium from:

  • Milk and other dairy foods, like cheese and yogurt, are very good sources of calcium. One 8-ounce glass of milk has about 300 milligrams of calcium. Just a few glasses can go a long way toward giving kids the calcium they need each day. Milk also has other vitamins and minerals that are good for teeth and bones. The vitamin D in milk helps the body absorb calcium.

  • Other healthy foods with calcium are dark green, leafy vegetables; orange juice with calcium added; and soy milk with calcium added.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following types of milk for children:

  • Babies under one year old should have breast milk or formula with iron added.

  • Children ages one to two should drink whole milk.

  • Children ages two to five should be gradually switched to fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) milk.

    Food labels can tell you how much calcium is in one serving of a food. Look at the % Daily Value next to the calcium number on the food label.

  • Try to eat and drink foods with 20% or more Daily Value of calcium (like milk). These foods are good sources of calcium.

  • A food with 5% Daily Value or less has just a little calcium.

  • For most adults, 100% Daily Value = 1,000 milligrams of calcium - but children ages 9-18 need extra calcium, or 130% of the Daily Value. This age group needs 1,300 milligrams, an additional 300 milligrams of calcium each day. That means one extra 8-ounce glass of milk or extra servings of another calcium-rich food.

    Not everyone can drink milk. Some people get an upset stomach if they drink milk or eat dairy products. This may be (but is not always) a sign of lactose intolerance. Lactose is the sugar found in milk and dairy foods. When lactose is not digested it may cause an upset stomach, bloating, diarrhea, and gas. Lactose intolerance is not common in young children. It is much less of a problem if milk or dairy foods are taken with meals. Talk to your pediatrician if you think your child might have trouble digesting milk and dairy foods.

    For information, contact Dr. Nguyen at . SoftDental ( ) is Houston's Premier Laser, Family and Cosmetic Dentistry .

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