We all know that we should try to eat less sugar. And when it comes to children, consuming too much added sugar is a growing problem. Sure it tastes great (especially for kids) but excessive amounts can harm your child’s overall health – including their teeth and gums.
Snacking on too many sugary sodas, candy, fruit drinks and non-nutritious foods can increase the risk of tooth decay. And down the road, it can also increase the risk of heart disease. Additionally, processed foods that contain high sugar adds unnecessary calories, little nutritional value and can contribute to diseases like obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
So how does sugar affect your child’s teeth? Excessive sugar increases the production of plaque that will break down tooth enamel. When that bacteria contacts sugar in the mouth, acid is produced that attacks teeth and eventually leads to tooth decay and cavities. Luckily, this is preventable. One of the easiest ways to do this, is to reduce the amount of sugar in their diet. Reducing sugar will promote healthy teeth and gums, while also supporting a healthier lifestyle. But for children, this can be tricky. So we’ve come up with five helpful ways that parents can reduce sugar in a child’s diet:
- Reduce sugary drinks: Things like juice, soda, punch should be served rarely as they have little nutritional benefit and are stacked with sugar. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not serving juice to any child under the age of one. Instead, parents can offer water or milk and save sugary drinks for special occasions.
- Choose whole foods, fruits and vegetables: Not only do they contain nutrients that will protect your child’s gums, but crunchy fruits and vegetables can help clean plaque from teeth too. Also, whole foods are minimally processed, and provide vitamins and nutrients critical to oral health. As opposed to snacks like crackers and chips – which break down into sugar and get stuck on teeth for longer periods of time.
- Plan meals ahead of time: By creating a plan and cooking more meals at home, you can control the nutritional content of your diet versus what would happen if you eat out. Everyone knows how challenging it can be to find healthy fast food options as they often contain excessive amounts of added sugar.
- Lead by example. As you try to improve your child’s diet, it’s a good time to adopt a better diet for yourself. If your children watch you eat whole foods, more vegetables and more fruits, while limiting added sugar, they are more likely to follow your example for years to come.
- Watch out for sticky snacks. Candy, fruit roll ups, dried fruit (like raisins) contain high amounts of sugar and are often some of the worst offenders for growing bacteria. This is because sticky foods can creep into tiny crevices near the gums. And because they are harder to remove, the sugar stays on teeth longer and exposes more harm.
For more ways on how to protect your child’s teeth, schedule an appointment with your dentist. Together, you can create a plan that will keep your child’s teeth and gums clean and healthy. Find a dentist here.