Sugar acts like an acid dissolving the enamel on teeth. Each time you eat a snack containing sugar, the resulting acid attack can last up to 20 minutes. The naturally-occurring bacteria in the mouth use sugar as energy to multiply and stick themselves to the surface of a tooth. Over time, this turns into plaque and continues to eat away at the tooth’s enamel. Tiny holes will eventually be made in the enamel. These are cavities. Left untreated, cavities will continue to grow. Sugar attacks the enamel on your teeth and can lead to cavities. You can avoid the damaging effects of sugar by brushing and flossing your teeth two to three times a day and limiting the amount of sugary foods and snacks you eat and drink.
Sugar and teeth
Sugar is the main cause of tooth decay and most harm is done when sugary snacks and drinks are taken between meals. It is best for your child to keep sugary food and drinks to mealtimes only, and to provide healthier, sugar-free choices such as fresh fruit and vegetables, or bread-based snacks, if they need something to eat between meals. Dried fruit such as raisins or apricots have a high concentration of sugar. They are not suitable as a snack between meals, but can be taken at mealtimes.
Ideally, food or drinks containing sugar should not be taken more than four times a day. This will help to promote your child’s general health and wellbeing.
Fizzy drinks (even diet drinks) are not recommended for children as they are acidic and can wear away the enamel surface of the teeth if taken too often. This is called ‘dental erosion’. Pure fruit juices are also very acidic and can cause dental erosion if taken too often. Fruit smoothies can be made with yogurt, milk and ice (not ice-cream based) but they should not be taken too frequently between meals.
All the above drinks should only be given occasionally, where possible limited to mealtimes, and never given at bedtime. If fruit juices or cordials are given at mealtimes, they should be well diluted (about 1 part juice to 10 parts water).
Between meals, the best drinks to give your child are milk or water.
If your child is taking any dietary supplements containing sugar, where possible these should be given at mealtimes and not last thing at night. Let the dentist know if your child is taking dietary supplements.
If your child is being given any medicines, ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist for sugar- free varieties. If sugary medicines are used, avoid giving them last thing at night and rinse the child’s mouth with water after they are given.