Mind & Body
Parents: Sugar isn’t the Only Cavity Culprit
7/4/2018 10:37:40 PM
Tooth decay

For years sugar has been blamed for a large variety of frustrating behaviors—hyperactive children, expanding waistlines, headaches, three o’clock energy crashes, poor nutrition. When it comes to tooth decay, we looked to sugar once again, quick to blame it for all our tooth-decaying woes. But sugar does not stand alone when it comes to causing cavities, according to pediatric dentist Eric Sanders, DDS.

Parents who are on the lookout for their children’s teeth shouldn’t just confiscate the candy and cake, Dr. Sanders said. They should also keep an eye on sports drinks, sodas and even potato chips and fruit.

"You can brush twice a day and avoid the sweet treats and still get cavities,” Dr. Sanders said. Sugar isn’t off the hook, of course. The reason it’s a main cavity-causing culprit is because of its high acidity. "Acidity is the true perpetrator.”

According to Dr. Sanders, everyone has natural bacteria in their mouth that forms plaque. When plaque interacts with food deposits it produces acids that damage, demineralize or dissolve tooth enamel over time. The resulting acids can attack teeth for 20 minutes or more after you’ve finished eating and if the attacks are continual, it will break down the hard enamel on the surface of your teeth and eventually lead to tooth decay.

Because some foods are already high in acidity, it can further complicate or hasten the process, Dr. Sanders said. "The higher the pH level in your mouth, the more cavity-prone you become.”

These cavity-causing foods and drinks include sugary snacks like cookies, lollipops, bubble gum and Kool-Aid, but also encompass things like coffees, teas, fresh fruit, potato chips, non-dairy creamer, beer and grain products and other carbohydrates and starches.

"Obviously some of these foods, like fresh fruit, are very nutritious and shouldn’t be sacrificed for the sake of cavities. Instead, consider ways to counteract the negative effects that fruit acidity will have on you or your child’s teeth,” Dr. Sanders said. 

Dr. Sanders provided the following tips for parents who want to prevent cavities in their children and themselves:
  • According to the American Academy of General Dentistry, a high level of saliva in the mouth is effective in slowing the progression of tooth decay because saliva helps to restore the natural balance of acid in the mouth. When the acidity is high on a regular basis, the saliva doesn’t have an opportunity to restore the balance. People who eat a high-carbohydrate, high-acid diet, should temper it with foods that are lower in sugar and starches. This gives the saliva an opportunity to do its work.
  • Are you or your child fans of chewing gum? If so, choose sugar-free, xylitol gum to increase the amount of saliva in the mouth, which will also help restore the pH.
  • Reduce consumption of sugary sodas, fruit juices and fruit drinks.
  • Prepare snacks that raise the mouth’s pH, such as yogurt, cheese, sesame seeds, celery, water, carrots, sweet potatoes and broccoli.
  • If your child eats something sugary or cavity-causing, encourage them to follow it up with a handful of peanuts or some other food item that is friendly on the teeth.
  • Brushing immediately after eating something sweet isn’t necessary. Instead, drink water to neutralize the pH balance in the mouth.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride strengths tooth enamel, which raises its defense mechanisms against acid.
  • Drink through a straw. It’s best if the straw is positioned toward the back of the mouth to limit the amount of time the beverage is in contact with the teeth.
  • It’s better to consume sweet, sugary treats with a meal, when the mouth is producing more saliva. The added saliva created by a meal, rather than a quick snack, will help neutralize the acid in the mouth and could help rinse some of the cavity-causing particles.
  • Drink lots of water. Fluoridated water is ideal for preventing tooth decay.
  • Brush teeth twice a day and floss at least once.
  • Limit substances that rob the mouth of healthy saliva. This includes alcohol and even many medicines, such as antihistamines.
  • If your child is involved in sports, have them drink water rather than energy or sports drinks whenever possible. 
Posted by: Kristy Armand | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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