Sugar can make most things taste great but this sweet treat comes at a price. While your child may love sugary foods, the bacteria in their mouth enjoy them even more. When you eat something sugary then it provides a valuable food source for these bacteria. It allows them to thrive and multiply and at the same time they produce acid. This acid will eat away at the teeth causing something called demineralization.
It is a process where valuable minerals are removed from the teeth, leaving the tooth enamel softer and more vulnerable to decay. After eating something sugary, the mouth remains acidic for at least half an hour to an hour before pH levels begin to normalize. This is a process called re-mineralization occurs. This is where some of the minerals that were removed are redeposited as they remain in the saliva.
However, repeated demineralization and remineralization will eventually result in acid erosion, leading to cavities developing in teeth. While it’s obviously impossible to cut out sugar completely, there are ways you can reduce the amount of sugar your child eats or even the time it is eaten. When combined with good preventative professional dental care and a good brushing and flossing routine at home, this will go a long way to preventing tooth decay.
Listed below are a few easy ways that will help you reduce your kid's sugar consumption. Although cutting down on sugar may be hard at first, it doesn’t take long for the taste buds to become accustomed to less sweet food. These foods are every bit as tasty and as enjoyable to eat.
How Much Sugar Should Kids Be Eating?
According to the Food and Drug Administration, children aged three or older shouldn’t be consuming any more than 12 ½ teaspoons each day. This is the equivalent of one can of soda. The World Health Organisation recommends much lower limits. Those children should have no more than 3 teaspoons each day and the figure for adults is just 6 teaspoons.
Normally food labels list the sugar content in grams. It’s worth remembering that 1 teaspoon is equal to 4 g so ideally, your child’s sugar consumption should be anywhere between 12 g and 50 g a day. Getting into the habit of reading food labels will give you a good idea as to which foods are particularly bad for teeth. It’ll also tell you which foods make better choices for your kid's dental health.
Juice and Why It’s Not a Healthy Food for Teeth
It’s easy to assume that fruit juice that is made from whole fruit should be great for kids. It may be packed full of vitamins, it’s also very high in sugars and it contains lots of calories. Fruit juice is naturally acidic which increases the risk of acid erosion. What’s worse is that many children will sip on a drink over a long period of time so their teeth are continually being coated with this sugary substance.
The American Academy of Paediatrics doesn’t recommend giving children under the age of one fruit juice. Children aged between one and six shouldn’t be consuming any more than 6 ounces of juice each day while children aged 7 to 18 shouldn’t be consuming any more than 12 ounces. To give you an idea of how much this is, a juice box is generally about 6 ounces.
If your kid does want fruit juice, then make sure they drink it quite quickly and preferably as part of the main meal. Afterwards get them to rinse their mouth with plain water. Ideally, try to get your child to drink plain water or milk and get them into the habit of eating whole fruit rather than just drinking the juice.
Why Soda Is So Bad for Teeth (Even Diet Soda)
Sugary highly carbonated beverages are bad news for teeth and some brands contain particularly high levels of sugar. A recent study found a strong correlation between consumption of sugary drinks and poor dental health in teenagers. It found that teens who consumed sugary beverages were more likely to have acid erosion. The diet versions are no better as these tend to contain something called citric acid.
Any form of acid will automatically begin to eat away at tooth enamel.
Sticky Foods and Why They Are Best Avoided
Fruit leather and dried fruit initially seem like a healthy snack but these foods are packed with sugars. What’s worse is that they tend to stick to teeth far longer than other foods that are traditionally regarded as being bad for teeth. A prime example is a chocolate which while sugary will soon melt away with the excess being washed away by saliva.
When foods stick to teeth then the sugar contained in them is steadily been consumed by bacteria for the entire time they remain in the mouth.
Why Chips Aren’t All They’re Cracked up to Be
Chips and crackers may not contain any obvious sugars but they are high in carbohydrates. Just like dried fruit, chips tend to stick to teeth quite well and the carbohydrates in them are soon broken down into sugar.
Get Advice from Your Kid’s Dentist
Did you know your kid’s dentist can offer personalized dietary advice? They focus on child orientated dental care. It’s something that can be extremely useful if your child takes good care of their teeth. You know they brush and floss regularly, yet they have recently had one or two unexpected cavities. Their dentist can analyze their diet to determine if there are any factors that may be affecting their dental health and increasing the risk of cavities.
It’s quite possible there may be some food they like to eat and which seems perfectly healthy but which has hidden sugars. Granola bars are another example as are sports drinks. Sometimes it can be a question of when these foods are enjoyed. Many children like to snack in between meals especially if they are constantly on the go and need the extra energy. However, these snacks can mean their teeth are being exposed to acids for longer.
If this is the case, their dentist can discuss alternative snacks that are better for their teeth. Good examples include dairy products such as cheese and sugar-free yogurts.