Caries and Sugar—A Sticky Subject
Most of us know that allowing children to snack on sugary foods all day long isn’t the best choice for their overall health. But when it comes to dental health, even foods that have some nutrition can be detrimental. Gummy candies and vitamins, dried fruit snacks and chewy protein bars may seem like smart snacking choices, but they can easily get stuck in between young teeth—and since children typically aren’t the best flossers, this can be a recipe for dental disaster.
Sugar doesn't actually cause cavities; rather, the sugar acts as “food” for bacteria that cause decay. When carbohydrate-heavy foods become stuck to the teeth, they produce an acid that eats away at the enamel of your child’s pearly whites, allowing bacteria to make a nice, comfy home in the dentin, or center, of the tooth. Once the dentin begins to decay, cavities are the next step down the road to the dentist’s drill and fillings.
Interestingly, eating a massive amount of sugar in one sitting is less harmful than sucking on sugary candies or sipping juice all day long. This is because the more time the mouth spends in that sugary, acidic state, the longer the bacteria can do their dirty, decaying work. After eating a sugary snack, the negative effects can be mitigated if children rinse their mouths with water, brush their teeth or floss.
So while it might be a losing battle to try to remove all sugar and sticky carbohydrates from your children’s diets, you can teach them good dental habits such as
- chewing sugarless gum with xylitol
- carrying a toothbrush in their backpack to brush after meals and snacks
- eating fresh fruit instead of fruit leather or juice
- choosing chocolate—if you do allow candy—rather than gummy candy (just as it easily melts in your hand, chocolate can easily melt off your child’s back teeth)
And if all else fails, remind your children that swishing some water around in their mouths after snacks is a lot easier than getting a cavity filled!
If you have further questions regarding your child's oral health and diet, click here to schedule an appointment with Dr. Jared. Or give us a call at (509)-891-7070.