Editor’s Note: This article was published in a previous edition of the Kaiserslautern American and the information has been updated.
We live in a fast-paced world with children often sipping on drinks other than water and snacking on sugary or starchy foods throughout the course of a day.
One of the risk factors for early childhood cavities is frequent and prolonged exposure of a baby’s teeth to liquids such as fruit juice, milk or formula, which all contain sugar.
Americans are consuming foods and drinks high in sugar and starches more often and in larger portions than ever before. Junk foods and drinks gradually have replaced nutritious beverages and foods for many people. Alarmingly, the average teenage boy in the U.S. consumes 81 gallons of soft drinks each year.
A steady diet of sugary foods and drinks can ruin teeth. Sugar on teeth provides food for plaque bacteria, which produce acid. The acid, in turn, can eat away the enamel on teeth, creating cavities.
Almost all foods have some type of sugar that cannot and should not be eliminated from our diets. Many of these foods contain important nutrients and add enjoyment to eating, but there is a risk for tooth decay from a diet high in sugars and starches.
Starches can be found in everything from bread to pretzels to salad dressing, so read labels and plan carefully for a balanced, nutritious diet for you and your kids.
Here are some ways to reduce your child’s risk of tooth decay:
- Sugary foods and drinks should be consumed with meals. Saliva production increases during meals and helps neutralize acid production and rinse food particles from the mouth.
- Limit between-meal snacks. If kids crave a snack, offer them nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, and cheese.
- If your child chews gum, make it sugarless. Chewing sugarless gum after eating can increase saliva flow and help wash out food and decay-producing acid. There are some great options available that list xylitol as the first ingredient, which is preferred over the sugar substitute sorbitol.
- Monitor beverage consumption. Instead of soft drinks, juices, and sports drinks, children should consume water and low-fat milk.
- Help your children develop good brushing and flossing habits. Parents need to help children brush twice and floss once daily.
- Infants should always finish their bedtime bottle or nursing, brush teeth and then be placed in bed.
- Encourage your children to drink from a cup by their first birthday.
- Schedule regular dental visits.
The American Dental Association says that it is beneficial for the first dental visit to occur within six months of the appearance of the first tooth and no later than the child’s first birthday.