Not So Sweet: Sugar And Your Child's Teeth

It's exciting when a child gets their first tooth. But a child's first cavity is a disturbing time. It's more common than you may think, and some 40% of American children will develop a cavity or cavities. After filling your child's cavity, the team at your family dentistry clinic will give you a few tips on how to prevent that single cavity from being followed by multiple cavities. Some of these tips will be dietary—ways to manage your child's sugar consumption. However, it's not quite as simple as just consuming less sugar. 

Added Sugar in Foods and Drinks

You might diligently read the list of ingredients before buying something at the grocery store but added sugar isn't always obvious. Look for ingredients that end with "-ose". These are often different classifications for sugar and can be called glucose, fructose, or sucrose. The relevant item may also be phrased differently, such as when it's called high-fructose corn syrup. These are sweeteners made from fruit (or vegetable) starches, but make no mistake—it's still a sugar product that can contribute to your child's tooth decay.

Neutralizing Corrosive Elements

Regular snacking between meals is bad news for teeth, and when the snack in question is high in sugar—it can be catastrophic for teeth. Saliva is efficient in flushing away harmful components and helping to keep a tooth's enamel (its surface layer) mineralized. It helps to neutralize the corrosive elements in foods and drinks, but there's a limit to its ability to protect your child's tooth enamel—which may need more protection than yours.

Protecting Your Child's Tooth Enamel

Ongoing exposure to sugar creates an ongoing attack on dental enamel. Saliva is unable to properly neutralize the corrosive elements in these sugar-rich foods and drinks. This can be managed by limiting both the amount of sugar in your child's diet, and by limiting the number of times each day when your child consumes a product containing added sugar. This gives their saliva ample time to repel the corrosive elements of these foods and drinks, helping to protect their enamel. Their enamel needs some extra help because it's thinner than yours—and so is more vulnerable to corrosion from sugar-rich foods and drinks. 

Of course, attending regular dental checkups continues to be an essential part of maintaining a child's dental health. If cavities do develop, it's infinitely better to catch them as soon as they appear, and the first time they're spotted is often during a dental checkup.

Contact a local family dentistry service to learn more.