Children’s teeth: Impact of sugar and food

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It may come as no surprise most children develop a sweet tooth. Studies show that children often crave sugar during growth spurts when they need more calories and energy. While there’s nothing wrong with indulging in the occasional sweet treat once in a while, too much sugar can affect a child’s teeth. Here’s how sugary foods can impact a child’s oral health and how you can help them develop healthy dental habits to protect their smile.

How sugar and food affect oral health 

You may already be aware that sugar can cause cavities, but you may not know how that actually occurs. When children consume sugary foods and beverages, the bacteria in the mouth feed on the sugar and produce acid as a byproduct. This acid can erode the tooth enamel, leading to tiny holes or cavities in the teeth. In addition to sugar, acidic foods and drinks like citrus fruit, juices, and soft drinks can also contribute to the erosion of tooth enamel. The acid in these products ultimately weakens the enamel, making teeth more susceptible to cavities.

How to promote good dental hygiene 

It’s important to educate children about the impact of sugar and food on their teeth and encourage healthy eating habits and oral hygiene practices. By reducing sugar consumption, maintaining a balanced diet, practicing good dental hygiene, and visiting the dentist regularly, children can have a better chance of maintaining healthy teeth and gums.

Use fluoride

According to the American Dental Association, fluoride is a natural mineral that prevents tooth decay and can reverse it in its early stages. Fluoride helps strengthen the tooth enamel and makes it more resistant to acid attacks. Encouraging children to drink more water, especially fluoridated water, can help protect their teeth. Most tap water is fortified with fluoride to promote dental health. You can also purchase toothpaste formulated with fluoride.

Brush regularly

Proper dental hygiene, including brushing teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily, is crucial to removing food particles and plaque from the teeth. If possible you can even encourage your child to brush their teeth after eating and drinking. Good dental hygiene removes sugars from the mouth and helps prevent the formation of cavities. Teach oral hygiene early to help create good dental habits that will last a lifetime.

Skip sugary drinks and snacks

Eating and drinking sugary foods and drinks all day continuously exposes the teeth to a constant supply of sugar and acid, increasing the risk of cavities. To maintain great dental health, try to skip sugary drinks like sodas and fruit juices and encourage your children to drink water instead. If you don’t keep an abundance of sugary drinks or snacks in your home, your child won’t be tempted. Instead, encourage your child to drink more fluoridated water which can help protect their teeth and create healthier eating habits overall. However, that’s not to say they should never be allowed to have sweets. To maintain positive oral health and healthy eating habits, save sweet treats for special occasions or limit to once a day during meal time.

Regular dental check-ups 

Regular visits to the dentist are so important for monitoring children’s oral health and recognizing any dental problems at an early stage. Dentists can provide guidance on proper oral hygiene practices and suggest preventive measures to protect your child’s teeth from cavities, enamel erosion, and gum disease. Dental experts at Fab Dental recommend children should begin to visit the dentist around the age of 3, or whenever they have a full mouth of teeth

Healthy diet

A child’s overall diet can also impact their dental health. A balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products provides essential nutrients for healthy teeth and gums. Make sure your child is getting enough calcium and vitamin D which is particularly important for developing strong and healthy teeth.

Dr. Guneet Alag is an owner-dentist at Fab Dental, [link the business anchor to]. She received her Doctor of Dental Surgery from the New York University College of Dentistry and holds credentials from the AGD, CDA, and ADA. She is an expert in dental implantology and specializes in Emergency Dentistry, Orthodontics, Endodontics, Periodontics, and Prosthodontics.