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How Sugar Can Affect Your Child’s Teeth

Colorful watermelon candy lined up

It’s just a fact of life that sugar is found in many foods, even ones we consider healthy. From cow’s milk and breastmilk to fruits and vegetables, we as parents want to make sure the foods we feed our infants and children are good for them. That’s why it is important to understand how sugar affects your child’s teeth, what foods they should eat or avoid, and how to provide quality dental care at home to ensure your child has a healthy, beautiful smile.

Effects of Sugar

When bacteria in the mouth breaks down sugars, acid forms. This acid eats away at tooth enamel, causing decay and cavities. Since sugar is found in almost everything we eat, it is hard for kids to avoid their teeth coming in contact with sugar. In fact, it doesn’t even matter the form the sugar comes in – food or drink, refined or processed, even sugar from carbohydrates – it can cause major damage to teeth.

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the formation of acid happens quickly after we eat, a sort of post-meal or snack “acid attack.” Because of this, a higher frequency of eating or drinking exposes your child’s teeth to decay at a higher rate. Limiting snacks can help, but sometimes this isn’t an option, especially with infants and toddlers. Be sure to offer water with snacks and meals, and brush their teeth at least twice a day. This helps fight back against these harmful acid attacks. One thing to remember is that damaged enamel can repair itself with the help of fluoride, but once decay sets in and the enamel is worn away, it can’t and won’t come back.

Foods to Avoid

There are, of course, obvious things that you should avoid giving to your children if possible. Candy and juice, as well as sweets like cookies, ice cream, and soda all are veritable sugar bombs that can cause extreme damage to your child’s smile. Sticky foods like gummy snacks are also major culprits of tooth decay. Even a sugar-free variety can cause problems because the texture of the snack means it sticks to teeth and keeps acid touching the teeth for longer than other types of foods. Treats every now and then are just fine, but make sure that your child brushes their teeth soon afterward, or at least rinses their mouth out by drinking a glass of water.

Foods to Eat

Serving your child balanced meals with vegetables, fruits, protein, whole-grains, and low-fat dairy products is an essential part to keeping your child, and their smile, healthy. We understand that kids love snacks – what child doesn’t enjoy a good after-school snack while they settle in to do their homework? – so make sure you offer them tooth-friendly snacks like cheese, yogurt, or peanut butter instead of freshly baked cookies.

It’s not all about what your child eats, though. As we said, sugar is hard to avoid in food because it’s hidden in so many things we eat and drink on a daily basis. So it’s important that you help your child maintain a good dental hygiene routine at home. Help them brush their teeth twice a day, or remind your older child to brush each morning and each night. Flossing is important, too! Finally, make sure your child is coming in to see our team at Bright Smiles Pediatric Dentistry every six months for a routine exam and cleaning. We can go over any concerns you have and even give you tips on keeping your child’s smile healthy in between dental visits. Call our office today to schedule your child’s next appointment.

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