Child smiling and holding his cafeteria lunch at school. Back-to-school season is now in full swing! And as your child heads back into the classroom this fall, it’s important to ensure that their smile is in tiptop shape. That said, did you know that what they eat throughout the school day can heavily influence their oral health, and in turn their academic success? Here’s more from your pediatric dentist about the link between school lunches and oral health, along with some healthy suggestions for keeping your little one’s smile white and bright.

How Your Child’s School Lunch Impacts Their Oral Health & Academic Performance

Simply put, everything that your child eats can influence their oral health, but what they have for lunch at school can be particularly impactful. This is because the leftover particles from their lunch will remain stuck to their teeth until their evening dental care routine—unless you expect your child to brush during their recess time! Nonetheless, this means that lunches high in sugars and starches will have all day to wreak havoc on your child’s pearly whites—and lunches offered by cafeterias are typically the most problematic.

There’s no doubt that school lunches are convenient for families with busy schedules or limited options, and recent legislation has helped to improve the overall healthiness of what school cafeterias are offering. That said, certain items still offered such as chocolate milk, canned fruits, potato chips, cookies, and more are all high in sugars, starches, and acids that pose a serious threat to teeth. Not to mention, school lunches also often lack the same overall nutritional value that a homemade lunch can offer.

And to make matters even worse, poor oral health can also negatively affect your child’s academic performance! Studies show that children who struggle with dental problems are more likely to not finish all of their assigned work, or to attend class as frequently. This is also accompanied by psychosocial implications; your child might feel embarrassed about their smile, which can make navigating social situations difficult.

Healthy Suggestions for Your Child’s Lunch

You should take measures to provide healthy options for your child’s school lunch—and fortunately, this is relatively simple! Consider the following options and nutritious alternatives:

  • Raw vegetables like carrots, cucumber, celery, and more.
  • Fresh, vitamin-rich fruits like bananas, apples, kiwis, etc.
  • Nuts like almonds and cashews (nuts are also a great source of protein).
  • Dairy options like cheese, plain milks, and yogurts.
  • Soups and broths.
  • Sandwiches on whole wheat bread.
  • Water: providing a refillable water bottle or thermos for your child will help them stay hydrated throughout the day, which also helps their saliva to neutralize cavity-causing bacteria that remains after eating.

Your child’s academic success depends on a lot of things—including what they eat! Knowing how to provide healthy options for their school lunch will go a long way towards improving their oral health and in turn, their report card!

About the Author

Dr. Veronica Martinez has proudly served patients and families in the Scottsdale, AZ area for several years. Dr. Martinez received her dental doctorate from the Marquette University School of Dentistry and is an active member of several professional organizations including the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. If you have any questions about the article or would like to arrange a visit, you can contact Dr. Martinez through her practice’s website or over the phone for assistance: (480) 282-6746.

Dr. Veronica

Author Dr. Veronica

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