Sugar is found in many different food products, and while you probably think it’s just in those tasty desserts like cakes, cookies, pies, and chocolates, you may be surprised to find it’s in many other foods, too. Occasionally indulging in a sweet dessert is fine, but sugar can become a problem for your oral health if you’re indulging in it regularly. The bacteria in the mouth depends on sugar for its energy, so if you’re eating a lot of sugar, you’re just feeding the bacteria in your mouth. That bacteria produces acid that can break down tooth enamel, and that can result in tooth decay.
Tooth decay is a huge problem among children, and it can cause infections and pain that can result in difficulty with learning, speaking, eating, and playing. According to the CDC, approximately 20% of children between 5 and 11 years of age have untreated tooth decay. Unfortunately, the large amount of sugar that kids consume is fueling the problem with tooth decay. Although it’s tough to completely eliminate sugar from your child’s diet, there are some easy changes you can make to cut back on sugar and reduce your child’s risk of cavities.
Skip the Sugar-Filled Drinks
Kids love sweet drinks like fruit juices and sodas, but those drinks are packed with sugar. Even smoothies and fruit juices that may seem healthy have a lot of sugar in them. Staying hydrated is important, so skip the sugar-filled drinks and have kids drink fresh milk and plenty of water.
Beware of Low-Fat Snacks
When you choose those low-fat snacks for your kids, you probably think you’re making a healthier choice. However, low-fat foods often have higher sugar content. You don’t want your kids eating more sugar, so take a look at the package when buying snacks and look for low-sugar options.
Limit Sticky Snacks
When you see those sticky fruit snacks, they can look like healthy alternatives to candy. However, they can actually have a lot of sugar in them. The problem is that sticky snacks have a tendency to stay on teeth longer and they’re tough to remove. This means all that sugar is sticking to teeth, raising the risk of tooth decay. Limit sticky snacks, and if your child does eat them, brushing right away is important.
Look at Labels
Check the labels of any foods you purchase to see how much sugar is in the foods you’re buying. Be aware that there can be other names for added sugar as well, such as molasses, maltose, dextrose, and corn syrup. The higher these ingredients are on the list, the higher the content.
Don’t Let Kids Snack All Day
It’s not just the amount of sugar kids are taking in that can affect their oral health, it’s also how often they are consuming sugar. If kids are constantly snacking on foods that contain sugar, it means their teeth are constantly exposed to damaging sugars. It’s fine to let kids have a snack between meals, but try to keep snacking to a minimum, and when kids do snack, choose healthy, tooth-friendly options that will fill kids up.
Encourage Brushing After Eating
It’s recommended that your child brush his teeth at least twice a day, but you may want to encourage your child to brush after eating, particularly when he’s consumed a lot of sugar. It’s okay to enjoy a sweet treat, but make sure kids eliminate the sugar from teeth quickly. This reduces the damage that sugar can do to teeth.
Don’t Forget Preventive Dental Care
While it’s great to cut back on added sugars to improve your child’s oral health, you can’t forget preventive dental care. One of the best ways to avoid tooth decay in children is to make sure they have regular checkups and cleanings. Those regular checkups can ensure that any problems are found quickly before they turn into big problems that can compromise your child’s oral health.
Cutting back on sugar is one of the best ways to combat tooth decay in children. Take simple steps to cut back, make sure your child is keeping up with good oral hygiene practices, and don’t skip those routine dental appointments. You’ll ensure kids have a healthy smile for life.