Children are picky eaters. Even worse, they tend to gravitate towards sweet foods instead of healthier options. This is a problem since sugar is the main content of the most popular snacks such as cakes, cookies, and ice-creams. It’s not just desserts either. Sugar is also hidden in items like juices, ketchup, granola bars, canned sauce, soup, and a host of other foods. According to the American Heart Association, kids above 2 and below 18 years of age shouldn't consume more than 25 grams of sugar per day. Increasing the daily intake can badly impact your child's oral health specifically and physical fitness overall.
Your children deserve the best that dentistry has to offer. That is why our pediatric dentist office in Chandler, AZ is staffed with an expert team ready to help you make the best decisions about your child’s dental care. If you have questions about how sugar can affect kids’ oral development, call us today. We can schedule a consultation that will help make sure your children are getting the care they need to keep smiling day after day!
How Does Sugar Affect Your Dental Health
We all know that eating too much sugar can cause tooth decay, but do you know what exactly happens? It's not the sugar that leads to cavities, but the process that takes place after you eat or drink. Mouths are full of bacteria, coating teeth, gums, and even the tongue. Some are good and help in digestion while others can cause real harm to dentition. These bacteria feed on sugar and produce acid that decays your teeth. Even foods rich in carbohydrates are an issue because as they digest, the carbs turn into sugar, too!
What Causes Cavities?
A cavity needs only three things to form - your tooth, bacteria, and sugar. Once you eat sugar-rich foods, it only takes 20 seconds for the plaque bacteria to attach to the sugar and produce acid. This acid then starts attacking the enamel of your tooth, degrading it down. This reaction of bacteria and sugar leads to tooth decay over time and this, in turn, results in cavities.
Another reason behind the formation of cavities is the changes in the pH levels of your mouth. Generally, cavities form when the pH levels are reduced and becomes very acidic. The pH level drops significantly when we consume a lot of acidic foods and drinks such as junk food, cakes, cookies, lemonade, soda, and many others. When we eat such foods and beverages, the bacteria inside our mouth start converting the sugar into acid which in turn drops the pH level.
Saliva in your mouth takes around 20 minutes to neutralize this lowered pH level. So, with every bite of dessert or every sip of that sports drink, the timer restarts and your mouth is forming cavities for these 20 minutes! Your mouth should maintain a ph level of about seven, and if it drops below 5.5 that’s when tooth decay begins.
Foods That Contain Hidden Sugar
Spotting the sugars in desserts and candies is very easy, but what about the hidden sugar? The deal is, some foods you might consider to be "healthy" or "sugar-free" might contain high amounts of sugar. Some of these types of foods are as follows :
Breakfast Cereals (flavored oats, granola, muesli, breakfast flakes)
Some cereal boxes have claims such as "sugar-free", "whole grain" or "packed with vitamins and minerals," but that doesn't mean it is true to what it claims. These phrases are merely a part of the marketing strategies of the manufacturers. In reality, these breakfast cereals contain less nutritional value and are more of a sugary confection.
Tip: Try to select the breakfast cereal with a maximum of 10-12 grams of sugar per serving. There are many brands that are manufacturing great cereals with 4-5 grams of sugar per serving. Also, prioritize buying plain oats instead of flavored instant oats. Further, granola and granola bars are also packed with sugars, so read their labels and avoid them if the sugar content is too high. A good idea is to prepare your own granola by mixing rolled oats, nuts, seeds, dried berries, honey, cinnamon, and butter and baking it to get the crunch.
Kids love eating store-bought flavored yogurt and most of us don't stop them because we believe that yogurt is very healthy and nutritious. While there's no doubt that yogurt is very healthy, most store-bought ones are loaded with sugar.
Tip: If your kids don't enjoy eating plain greek yogurt, try to make your own flavored yogurt by mixing a freshly prepared fruit pulp of your choice. For sweetness, add a dash of honey. You can also try to find less sugary yogurts if you don't want to make your own.
Common condiments you use to give that extra kick to your daily food might be costing you in terms of your daily sugar intake. Ketchup, hot sauce, barbecue sauce, maple syrup, mayonnaise, salad dressings have loads of sugar in them.
Tip: Try to limit the consumption of these condiments or switch to healthier versions of them. There are companies that are doing an excellent job in manufacturing natural condiments.
Soft drinks, tea, coffee, flavored milk, and fruit juices all contain a lot of the sweet stuff. The sugar content from these beverages not only decays your teeth but also affects your health in numerous other ways. Even fizzy drinks that read "diet-friendly" still contain highly acidic carbonation that isn’t great for teeth, either.
Tip: Steer your child's packaged beverage intake away from sports drinks, fruit juices, flavored milk and carbonated beverages. Also, read labels well before deciding on which drinks to buy..
Smoothies are considered to be super healthy and nutritious. However, store-bought smoothies often supplement their ingredients with sugars. This lets manufacturers use less wholesome ingredients and then hide the fact with a sweet taste.
Tip: Try to make your own smoothies. Blend together your favorite frozen fruits, milk, frozen berries, and maybe some honey for the sweetness.
How To Prevent Your Teeth From Sugar
Maintaining good oral hygiene is important for each one of us, but it is even more crucial for children who tend to consume excessive sugar from their daily food and beverages. If you think your kid is at risk of developing cavities because of his sweet tooth, here are some tips to protect their teeth from the bad impact of sugar and keep them safe from cavities and tooth decay.
According to the American Dental Association, fluoride is a natural mineral that can help in preventing tooth decay and may also reverse it in the early stages. Fluoride is usually added to the community water systems and is also an ingredient of a majority of toothpaste. Make sure your child is using fluoride-based toothpaste and drinking lots of fluoride-rich water. If you have a well, discuss possible fluoride supplements with your dentist.
Brushing regularly is perhaps the most effective way to get rid of plaque and bad bacteria from your teeth and mouth. Use the right fluoride-based toothpaste according to the age of your children and make them brush at least twice a day, once in the morning and once before bed. Also, teach your children the right way of brushing teeth. Make sure they are brushing the front, back, and top parts of their teeth well.
Moreover, bacteria also clings to the tongue along with the teeth, so make your child clean their tongue as well.
Plaque not only gets accumulated on the surface of the teeth, but it also gets collected in between them. Encourage your child to floss daily after brushing. You can even purchase special flossing handles that will help little hands do an even better job.
Drink Lots Of Water
Drinking water is a very effective yet simple way to maintain good oral hygiene. Water not only keeps you hydrated, but it also keeps your teeth and gums healthy. Tap water often contains added fluoride, so encourage your child to drink enough water after eating and instead of drinking sugary beverages. This will rinse away the bad bacteria and acid produced by them.
Eat Healthy And Limit Sugar-rich Foods And Drinks
Your dental health directly depends on your eating habits. Sugary foods may look tempting and satisfy your cravings for a while, but they can do a significant amount of damage to your teeth and overall health. Limit your sugar intake and eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Teach your children the importance of healthy eating and try to build great dietary habits with them. If they're asking for canned soda, offer them a glass of cool water, or help them to choose cherries over chocolate for an after-school snack.
Regular Dental Checkups
Most important to any person's oral health is scheduling biannual dentist visits. Your clinician can spot trouble areas through x-rays and direct examination well before any discomfort arises. Dentists can spot and help correct other problems with dentition, too, especially when identifying if orthodontics is necessary.
Your dentist is a valuable resource when raising children. At Kids Dental Center, our doctors and clinicians want to give your family excellent treatment that our clients in the Chandler, AZ area expect. Schedule a consultation and find out how you can give your child a winning smile today!