Everyone knows that when you go to the dentist, he or she will tell you to avoid sugar. Why? Because it’s bad for your teeth and it causes cavities. When you hear this so often and frequently, it can almost be easy to disregard.
Understanding why dentists and hygienists say this so much by learning about the negative effects of sugar on children’s, and adult’s, teeth can really help to drive home the importance of good habits and hygiene.
We’re sharing the following helpful and practical overview to help you be more informed and encourage your little one’s oral health.
How Does Sugar Hurt the Teeth?
The first thing to understand is that sugar itself does not actually harm the teeth. In the same way that sugar is quick and easy fuel for people, it can also be a food source for the bacteria that live in our mouth. When sugar and other starches we eat cling to the surface of our teeth, it creates an all-you-can-eat buffet for these bacteria.
Although not all bacteria are bad, certain harmful bacteria in the mouth that feed off the sugar create acid as a byproduct. It is this acid that begins to weaken the outer protective surface of the tooth, called the enamel. Combined with other factors, the increased acid levels from bacteria feeding off sugar are a primary contributor to tooth decay.
Does Sugar Cause Cavities?
As mentioned above, when we consume too much sugar and certain other foods, it sticks to our teeth and is eaten by bacteria, which then create acid as a byproduct. This acid weakens the enamel and dentin of the teeth, causing tooth decay that can eventually become a cavity.
If the tooth decay goes unaddressed — by eating and drinking too much sugar, not brushing, and not going to the dentist — then it can grow into a cavity. In many cases, by the time you see and feel a cavity it is already too late. While there are treatments for cavities, they are usually less pleasant and include the fillings, root canals, and even tooth extractions that everyone wants to avoid.
Cavities that are caught early enough can be treated with less involved methods like dental sealants.
But by being proactive and encouraging healthy habits, you and your child can avoid cavities in the first place. One of the best ways? Avoiding and cutting back on your sugar intake.
Healthy Alternatives to Sugary Snacks and Drinks
We all know there is no way to completely avoid sugar in your kid’s life. No one wants to be that parent who makes their kid eat carrot sticks instead of cake at a birthday party. Occasional treats are ultimately not going to be what leads to cavities.
Instead, eating large amounts of sugar every single day, combined with poor oral hygiene, are what create a good environment for bacteria, tooth decay, and cavities. Here are some tips for limiting sugar in your kid’s diet:
- Avoid sugary drinks as much as possible and substitute with water. Even juice has dangerous amounts of sugar and should be consumed in moderation.
- Encourage a healthy breakfast that is low in sugar. Whole grain cereals and proteins such as eggs are always better than high sugar cereals and donuts.
- Snack time is the right time for veggies and fruits instead of sugary and starchy snacks
- Substitute whole grains for processed flour and starches as much as possible
- Try to find lower sugar alternatives for regular desserts, and save higher sugar treats for special occasions
- Definitely avoid beverages before bed that aren’t water. For very young children, try to get them out of the habit of bottles with milk or juice before bed as early as possible, or avoid it entirely.
A healthy diet is only one part of the puzzle though. Combining a diet with good oral hygiene is the key to healthy teeth and cavity prevention.
Steps to Prevent Cavities and Improve Oral Health
These good habits can help your little one have a happy checkup and a healthy smile:
- Brush at least twice a day. Brushing helps remove food from the surface of your teeth so bacteria cannot feed on them.
- Floss at least once a day. Flossing removes the hard to reach bits of food from between the teeth, a danger zone for tooth decay and cavities.
- Talk to your dentist about rinsing. Not all bacteria are bad, and some actually help your mouth. Ask your child’s dentist about the best mouthwashes that can help kill bad bacteria while keeping the good bacteria around.
- See your dentist regularly. Regular dentist appointments are important for several reasons. In addition to cleanings that promote gum health and remove plaque buildup, dentists can also see the earliest warning signs of cavities and help you take action before they worsen, such as with dental sealants and dental bonding. Dentists and hygienists can also provide expert instruction on brushing and flossing.
By working closely with your dentist and encouraging a healthy diet in your child, you can create an effective plan to keep your kid free of cavities.
Keep Your Family’s Teeth Healthy with the Help of AC Pediatric Dentistry
Going to the dentist can be scary — we get it. But it should be fun! Whether it’s care for baby teeth, big kid teeth, oral surgery, or orthodontics, our team of specialized pediatric dentists make the experience memorable while teaching you how to encourage healthy habits and good hygiene for lifelong smiles. Call us today or request an appointment online. We can’t wait to meet you!