Is It OK To Feed My Children Sugar, or Does It Cause Cavities?

Does sugar cause cavities

Should I let my children consume sweet treats, or does sugar cause cavities?

One major concern parents have is that sugar consumption can cause their children to have cavities. While sugar isn’t the sole factor of cavity formation, sweets should still only be consumed in moderation and as part of a healthy, nutritious diet. Here’s what you need to know about the part sugar actually plays in cavities so that you can help your kids maintain their beautiful smiles.

How do cavities develop?

Cavities are the result of tooth decay, which is caused by a buildup of plaque on the teeth. Plaque is a sticky film that develops and feeds on the sugars and starches from the foods we eat. As the bad bacteria eat those starches and sugars, they produce acids that slowly eat away at the enamel. Eventually, this creates small holes, which is what most people picture when they think of cavities.

What does that mean for sugar consumption?

Just like anything else, consuming sugar is fine, as long as it is done in moderation. Since the sugar itself isn’t the only cause of cavities, a sugary treat is fine to have every now and again. It really is more about the frequency of consumption.

What about children’s snacks and juices?

Many parents may be surprised to find out the “healthy” snacks and drinks they have been giving their children have higher levels of sugars and carbohydrates in them than what you’d expect, which is what feeds the plaque-causing bacteria. 

One of those snack types is crackers. See, crackers have a tendency to get stuck in between the teeth as well as in the grooves, and children simply aren’t as good at removing food from their teeth with their tongues as adults are. Children also don’t think to swish water around their mouths when they take drinks, which would also help remove these food particles from the mouth. So all those pieces left behind start to break down into sugar and become food for cavity-causing bacteria.

Fruit juices are another tricky snack. The natural and artificial sugars in those drinks end up sitting on the teeth as well. For this reason, dentists recommend only giving juice at meals or with a snack instead of allowing children to sip on the drinks all day long.

How can I get my child to eat more nutritious foods?

Sometimes it can be a battle to get children to eat (or even try) nutritious foods. They often need to be exposed to a new food multiple times before they’ll try it. Texture can also be an issue to some kids, so if your child isn’t interested in a new food at first, keep trying by preparing it in multiple ways.

For example, if you are trying a new vegetable, let your child taste it raw one time (as long as they’re old enough for it not to be a choking hazard) and steamed the next. Since they have different textures, your child might prefer one over the other. And if your child isn’t interested in trying something new, try not to stress over it—they’ll try new foods on their own terms when they are ready. 

How can I limit my kids’ sugary snacking?

Some families have an open-refrigerator policy, meaning children can get a snack anytime they want. However, constant snacking isn’t good for your teeth, as the sugars and starches from the snacks you consume have more chances to break down and feed plaque, which can cause cavities.

Children should be having a meal or snack every two to three hours, so instead of allowing free reign on the fridge, consider having kitchen time-outs. During certain hours of the day, make the kitchen off-limits to snacks and sugary drinks. This will help keep your kids from grazing on whatever snack sounds good at the time.

What are some tips for a good home-care routine?

To ensure your children are maintaining a healthy mouth, having an oral health care routine to follow is important. Everyone should be brushing their teeth at least twice a day for a minimum of two minutes each time, making sure to brush each and every tooth. It’s also important to teach your children the proper way to floss so that plaque doesn’t build up along the gumline. 
And, as always, bring your children to see the team at Pediatric Dental Specialists of Kearney at least twice a year for a dental evaluation and checkup to make sure their teeth are all in good health!