Halloween is just around the corner, and with the rest of the seasonal holidays following closely behind, your child is surrounded by sugar now more than ever. While indulging in treats once in a while isn’t a bad thing, sugar can lead to negative effects on your child’s overall oral health – not to mention leaving you with a costly bill – so it doesn’t hurt to take extra precaution during the “sweet” season. To protect your child’s oral health, it’s important to learn how sugar causes tooth decay in kids and what preventative steps you can take.

How Sugar Causes Tooth Decay for Kids

Sugar’s Role in Tooth Decay

It’s the oldest cautionary tale in the dentists’ book and the Mayo Clinic agrees, eating too much sugar is one of the leading causes of cavities. However, this doesn’t mean you must avoid sugar completely – or force your child to miss out on some of the sweeter times of the year.  When your child is surrounded by an abundance of sugary sweets, it can be hard to resist, so you want to be sure you’re doing your best to counteract the uptick in their sugar intake.

How exactly does sugar lead to tooth decay?

When it comes to tooth decay, it’s not so much the sugar alone that causes the damage, but the events that take place afterwards. Understanding sugar’s role in tooth decay is the first step in learning how to prevent it.

There are many different types of bacteria living in the mouth, some of which are even beneficial for your child’s oral health. However, certain forms of bacteria do more harm than good. When your child eats or drinks anything loaded with sugar and doesn’t properly clean their teeth, the harmful bacteria uses sugar to attach to the surface of the tooth and feed.

After the bacteria digests the sugar, it multiplies into plaque and produces a form of acid. This acid dissolves the minerals that make the enamel strong and protect the tooth from damage. Tiny holes from the acid then form on the enamel and as they grow bigger, a cavity is formed.

If the cavity is left untreated, the decay will progress beyond the enamel delving into the tooth and possibly through to the nerves, eventually causing pain and in some cases, loss of the tooth.

 Protecting Your Child’s Teeth

Just because sugar is the perfect food for bacteria in the mouth doesn’t mean your child can’t enjoy candy in moderation on such days as Halloween. We all know how important it is to limit the intake of sugar into the body, but when your child does eat sugary foods, it’s better to be prepared.

Teaching your child how to protect their teeth daily, especially after they’ve consumed sugary treats, will not only avoid tooth decay, but it will help them continue to practice good oral hygiene for the rest of their life. Educate them on how sugar causes tooth decay for kids and why it’s necessary to limit their intake, and encourage them to choose healthier snacks instead.

Important oral hygiene steps include:

  • Brush Regularly: The best way for your child to remove plaque from their teeth is to brush at least twice a day for two minutes, especially after consuming sugar. Don’t forget to show them how to brush their tongue, as this helps remove bacteria that causes bad breath.
  • Floss Once a Day: Bacteria can linger between teeth, so make sure floss is used at least once a day. Starting a good habit like flossing early can lead to lifelong good oral hygiene practices.
  • Use Fluoride: Fluoride not only assists in preventing tooth decay, but it can even reverse it in its early stages. While most toothpaste comes with fluoride, ask your pediatric dentist about a professional fluoride treatment to give your child’s oral health an extra boost.
  • Drink Plenty of Water: Skip on the sodas and sugary juices and encourage your child to drink more water to stay hydrated. Most tap water contains fluoride to help combat bacteria and decay, plus water is great for keeping saliva plentiful which provides a defense against plaque acids in the mouth.

Schedule Regular Pediatric Dentist Appointments

In addition to limiting your child’s sugar intake and teaching excellent oral hygiene at home, it’s important to schedule regular evaluations with your pediatric dentist. We recommend your child goes to the dentist every six months to maintain the health of their teeth and gums. This is the most thorough way to protect your child against tooth decay and other dental issues.

By scheduling regular appointments, tooth decay is caught early so measures are taken to stop cavities before they impact your child’s oral health.

At Nia Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics, we clean, polish and rinse the teeth to remove any plaque buildup on the tooth’s surface, along with checking for other potential problems. While consuming sugar can’t be entirely avoided, practicing good oral hygiene and visiting us for regular appointments ensures your child’s smile remains clean and healthy.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to keep your child’s oral health intact through the holidays and into the new year.