Why Sugar Is So Bad for Teeth

You've undoubtedly been told by your paediatric dentist that it's best to limit the sugar in your child's diet. In fact, your own general dentist has probably told you the same thing when they examine your teeth. Sugar is an enemy of good oral health at any age. It's especially important to keep the sugar levels low during childhood since the habits your child learns now are likely to be quite ingrained when they're adults. To put the anti-sugar plan into action for your child, it might help if you first have some background about exactly why it matters so much. Here's what you need to know about how oral disease and sugar are linked -- and how you can make necessary dietary changes.

How Sugar Invades the Mouth

The human mouth contains a great deal of bacteria -- and many of these are good bacteria that help maintain oral health. The bad bacteria can appear when you have early gum disease, when there's an infection in the body or when oral hygiene is lacking. Although the good bacteria is very efficient at fighting off the bad bacteria, sometimes it's not enough to prevent poor oral health. 

When your child eats sugar or starches (which convert into sugar) the bad bacteria have a feast. Bad bacteria consumes the sugar and quickly multiplies. After consuming the sugar, the bad bacteria starts producing damaging acids. These acids are found all over the gums and even in the pockets between the gums and the teeth sometimes. This can lead to advanced gum disease and eventually to tooth loss if not dealt with straight away. 

What You Can Do About Gum Disease

Now that you know why sugar is so bad for your child, you might be wondering how to implement the necessary dietary changes. Whilst your child may protest in the beginning, remind yourself that this reduction in sugar is crucial for your child's long term oral health. 

Replace sugary food: Start by replacing sugary and starchy snacks with more natural and healthy options. For example, whilst a banana and small amount of peanut butter do contain some sugars, it's far less sugar than a chocolate bar. Always reach for the naturally sweet foods rather than the artificially sweet ones when your child asks for a lolly or other sweets. An apple is infinitely better for your child than an artificial apple-flavoured fruit leather.

Replace sugary drinks: Replace sugary drinks -- this includes fruit juices -- with water whenever possible. Whilst your child can still have milk, water is always the best beverage to drink between meals and with snacks; it can even help repel the bad bacteria on teeth and gums.

Plan for special occasions: For special occasions, allow your child to have just one lolly or a small serving of dessert, and make sure that they brush their teeth afterwards. 

Lead by example: Adhere to a low-sugar diet yourself so that your child can see this as normal and healthy. Over time, your tastes -- and your child's tastes -- will change and sugar cravings will greatly lessen.