Sugar and Your Child’s Smile

If you’ve spent any time at all with your orthodontist in Melbourne, FL, then you’ve probably heard at least one friendly warning about sugar and your child’s smile. We all love sugary snacks, drinks, and desserts, but sugar can be an enemy to your smile. Let’s talk about what sugar really does to your teeth and your body, and why you should try to limit it in your own and your child’s diet!

Sugar and Your Child’s Teeth

Our mouths have billions of bacteria — while many of them are good, some are bad for your teeth. Sugar is a natural food source for bad bacteria. When it coats the teeth, those bad bacteria go to work. Too much sugar can eventually cause the harmful bacteria in the mouth to overwhelm the good bacteria, and then you’re going to have problems.

Without proper brushing and flossing, in addition to regular professional teeth cleanings, harmful bacteria will eventually lower the pH in the mouth. This causes the enamel on the teeth to weaken and can eventually result in cavities or gingivitis (gum disease).

Sugar and Your Child’s Overall Health

Too much sugar in the diet won’t just cause problems for your child’s smile. It can also cause major health problems for the rest of the body. Sugar has obviously been linked closely to the childhood obesity problem.

Many of the sugars in our food products these days will be converted into fat. Being overweight or obese can lead to a wide range of health problems that include diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and more.

The best way to avoid these problems is by encouraging healthy eating and drinking when kids are young. It also requires knowing how to spot added sugars in ingredient lists, and trying to limit or avoid those types of foods.

Identifying Hidden Types of Sugars

One way to check ingredient lists for sugars is by reading the “added sugar” line. But many types of sugars that can be harmful to your child’s smile are now masked with names that sound nothing like sugar. For example, there are many different words that end with the suffix “-ose” which are actually sugars, such as glucose, dextrose and others.

Here are some ingredients that don’t sound like traditional sugar, but which are in fact loaded with sugars:

  • Agave nectar
  • Honey
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Any and every type of “syrup”
  • “100% Fruit Juice” — That one sounds healthy, right? But the truth is, fruit juices and concentrates are loaded with sugars too!

Just because an ingredient label does not specifically call something a sugar, does not mean it’s not a sugar. Your child’s teeth absolutely will not care what the ingredients are called — the effect will be the same. Too much sugar in the diet, especially if the oral hygiene is poor, can help lead to cavities, gum disease, and other health problems.

Healthier Food and Drink Choices

Choosing healthier snacks for your children and yourself will benefit your smile and the rest of your body. It takes some time to adjust to a new diet, and tracking down all the hidden sugars in ingredients is really a pain these days. Here are some snack suggestions to help put you on the right path for healthier teeth and smiles:

  • Popcorn
  • Guacamole 
  • String cheese
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Chips made from zucchini, sweet potato, or other veggies

Sugary drinks are especially tough to avoid, so it might be easier to just limit drinks to “plain old water” — or sprinkle a few drops of real lemon or lime juice in a glass of water. Additionally, candy is almost entirely made out of sugar and syrups, so it’s best to never bring it into the home at all!

Also, keep in mind that we’re not saying you should avoid desserts entirely. Having a slice of birthday cake isn’t going to completely ruin teeth. Simply try to limit desserts to special occasions to further limit sugar intake.

Contact Us for Your Next Appointment

Aside from limiting sugar, a great way to improve a smile is with the help of braces or Invisalign in Melbourne, FL. Contact us at Melbourne Orthodontics to schedule your next appointment for you or your child.