Summertime means special activities and foods we tend to enjoy in abundance during these long, warm days. Unfortunately, this fun season can wreak havoc on a child’s oral health if parents don’t stay vigilant. Ice cream, caramel corn, cotton candy, soda, and even trail mix can hasten tooth decay.
How Sugar Leads to Tooth Decay
Tooth decay occurs when bacteria in the mouth comes in contact with sugar from food and drinks, producing acid, causing the pH in our mouth to drop. The acid begins to attack tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay and cavities over time. While our saliva is designed to neutralize the acid and increase pH levels, it takes 20 minutes for that to happen, during which time acid is breaking down the tooth enamel.
While this may sound complicated, the process can be broken down into this simple equation: Sugar + Bacteria = Acid à Tooth Decay
Sugar is a ticking time bomb for teeth. When your child consumes sugars, it only takes 20 seconds for the bacteria on their teeth to combine with the introduced sugar and turn into acid.
A drop in mouth pH is exacerbated when we consume acidic foods and beverages such as soda, lemonade, processed baked goods, fried foods, and citrus.
Protect Your Child’s Teeth
In general, kids with diets that are high in sugar have higher rates of cavities. So how can you help ensure your child’s oral health? See below for some ideas.
12 Strategies to Protect Your Child’s Teeth
- Drink water or sugar-free flavored water instead of soft drinks.
- Moderate their consumption of soft drinks, sports drinks, and fruit juices.
- When they have a sugary drink, avoid sipping for an extended period of time, and limit sippy cups to water consumption.
- Use a straw to keep sugar away from teeth.
- After a sugary drink or food, have your child rinse their mouth with water.
- If they have soda, juice and sugary snacks near bedtime, make sure they brush well.
- Read labels for sugar content.
- Get regular checkups and cleanings to remove bacteria buildup (plaque).
- Use a fluoride toothpaste and floss to protect their teeth.
- Have milk (it also has sugar) or juice at mealtime when food helps wash away the extra sugar.
- Choose sugar-free treats when possible.
- Try to avoid those treats that linger in the mouth like caramel, suckers, and taffy.
Why Protecting Baby Teeth Matters
While your child will eventually lose their baby teeth, it is still important to protect those teeth from decay. Adult teeth sit right below baby teeth and decay doesn’t stop at the bottom of baby teeth — it can spread to adult teeth too. Losing baby teeth early due to decay can affect how adult teeth come in, leading to crowding.
Dr. Francis of Wild About Smiles also makes this point, “Baby teeth help kids chew their food to help them grow; they help guide permanent teeth so they come in correctly. It’s vital to keep those teeth healthy.”
Just as importantly, you are helping your child establish their lifelong oral hygiene habits.
If your child is suffering from tooth pain or other signs of decay, get them expert treatment immediately. Dr. Francis and the Wild About Smiles team are here to help your child maximize their oral health. For the Sparks office, call (775) 331-9477; for Fallon: (775) 423-9453. Or make an appointment online.