How Does Sugar Affect Teeth?
Children are notoriously picky eaters and often demand sugar-filled treats and soft drinks, both of which can affect their teeth throughout their life. Everyone knows that eating too much sugar can cause cavities, but not everyone knows exactly how cavities are made and how to prevent them. Children may be more willing to practice good oral hygiene if they are aware of the battle that is taking place inside of their mouth. Here’s how cavities come to be and how to prevent tooth decay from affecting your children’s oral health.
How Do Cavities Develop?
The mouth is packed with hundreds of bacteria, some of which are good for the oral ecosystem. But, many of the bacteria found in the mouth are harmful and get their “strength” from the sugar you eat. Sugar is a source of energy and food for bacteria, and as the sugars break down, acids are produced. The bacteria-produced acid eats away at the enamel on the teeth, causing tiny holes, which may cause teeth to be sensitive to cold and hot foods and beverages. Over time, the tiny holes get bigger and bigger until they create large holes also known as tooth decay or cavities. In other words, cavities are a type of bacterial infection that has been created by the acids that cause teeth to decay and develop large holes. Without the proper treatment, cavities can progress beyond the enamel and into the deeper layers of teeth, causing pain and possible tooth loss.
How to Prevent Cavities
The best way to prevent cavities is for children to avoid consuming sugary foods and beverages, but it is understandable that children want the occasional treat. There are several things you can do to reduce the risk of cavities when they do consume sugar:
Encourage drinking plenty of water.
Water helps to wash away the harmful bacteria in your children’s mouth. It also helps to keep their mouth hydrated, which is essential because saliva helps wash away harmful bacteria and it contains essential minerals that help to repair damage to the teeth. Drinking water after snacks and between meals will help to keep bacteria at bay.
Limit fruit juices. Fruit juice contains sugar, so children should generally only be given juice as a snack and only about four ounces per day. If your child still takes a bottle or uses a sippy cup, it is important to never put fruit juice in their bottle or sippy cup when they are going to sleep. When they are given a bottle of fruit juice at bedtime, the bacteria has a greater chance of “laying” on their teeth overnight, which increases the risk of cavities.
Limit snacking. Treats are fine in moderation, but it is best to choose treats that are less likely to stick to teeth. For instance, chocolate melts away from the teeth, whereas treats, such as gummies, suckers, and chewy candies are sticky and will remain in their mouth for longer periods of time.
Without a doubt, the best way to prevent cavities is with regular brushing and flossing. It is recommended that children (and adults) brush at least twice each day and floss at least once each day. If children consume food or beverages with high acidic value or that is sugary, they should wait at least 45 minutes to an hour before brushing (the stickiness can actually cause enamel to wear away from the brushing). It is also extremely important for children to have routine dental exams and cleanings to help ensure their teeth and gums are strong and healthy.
To schedule a cleaning and check-up for your children, contact us at Wright Smiles Pediatric Dentistry.