Frequently, we hear how bad sugar is for our bodies. It can lead to weight gain, blood sugar issues and even diabetes. But how often do we consider the effects of sugar consumption on our oral health…or on our child’s oral health? In this post, we’re going to look specifically at how sugary beverages wreak havoc on your toddler’s teeth and what you can do to prevent it.
Craving sugar is normal
While we may tend to villainize sugar, as humans we are biologically predisposed to crave sugary foods and beverages during times in our lives when we need more calories. This is especially true of babies and adolescents whose bodies are growing rapidly. Not only does sugar satisfy a craving and provide the calorie boost growing bodies are looking for, but it has been widely recognized to help reduce pain.
However, sugar isn’t without its pitfalls and should always be consumed in moderation.
How sugar affects your toddler’s teeth
When your toddler consumes sugar, it’s often in the form of fruit juice and in some cases, soda. But what actually happens to your child’s teeth when they drink a sugary beverage?
Everyone’s mouth contains bacteria. When this bacteria comes into contact with sugar, it immediately begins to break it down, forming plaque and producing acid. Because sugar is sticky and it adheres to the surface of your toddler’s teeth, this process happens right up against their tooth enamel. The acid eats away at the enamel and removes important minerals from their teeth. Without diligence, this process leads to tooth sensitivity, tooth decay and cavities.
So, what can be done?
Preventative measures to keep your toddler’s teeth healthy
There are several things you can do as a parent to protect your toddler’s teeth against the harmful effects of sugar:
- Avoid fruit juice, even 100% or natural type juices
- Definitely avoid giving your toddler fruit juice or even milk before bed
Put a straw in any sweet beverages your toddler drinks
- Teach your toddler the importance of brushing and flossing regularly
- Help your toddler (and actually any child up to at least age 8) brush their teeth thoroughly 30-60 minutes after they consume fruit juice or soda
- Provide water as your child’s primary beverage and encourage frequent hydration to rinse their mouth
- Have children drink white milk; flavored milk of any kind (chocolate, strawberry, banana, etc) is full of sugar
- Limit or avoid sugary drinks and foods