When it comes to the bad guys, we like to think we can spot them a mile away. And we do our best to keep them far away from our kiddos.
Take icky viruses for example. We use hand sanitizer, teach our kiddos to wash their hands properly, and have a cabinet full of vitamins and medicine at the ready. And always, ALWAYS on the lookout for tell-tale signs of sickness and disease.
But there are some who are trickier to spot. Their costumes are so believable that some parents believe they’re actually good guys!
And if you haven’t guessed yet, this sneaky little guy is sugar.
Sugar has infiltrated our food supply and taken over our taste buds — and our hearts! Think about it, sugar is so popular and loved that we have common phrases such as:
Sweet as sugar.
Sugar and spice and everything nice.
Well, Super Parents, there’s nothing nice about sugar! Not only can sugar throw you on the fast-track to disease, but it harms your kiddo’s teeth too.
How Sugar Harms Teeth
Like our tummies, our mouth is full of bacteria. Some good, some bad.
And here’s where sugar comes in. You see, bad bacteria LOVE sugar! And the more sugar they get, the more trouble they create.
One of their favorite fusses they like to cause are cavities. Cavities are a form of tooth decay that cause small holes in your teeth. OUUUUCH!
And not only are cavities caused by sugar (among other things), but excess sugar is the leading cause of tooth decay in children. Yup, you read that right — the leading cause!
Sugar can also cause enamel erosion. Enamel is the protective layering over our teeth. You can think of your enamel as the first line of defense guarding us against tooth decay, cavities, and infection.
Lastly, sugar can even cause tooth loss. And not the good kind! There’s no extra tooth growing in, no tooth fairies, and no money.
Where’s the Sugar
Now that you know how sugar can harm teeth, let’s find out where this sneaky guy likes to hide and stop him in his tracks.
Sugar has many, many, MANY names! It’s one way we’re tricked into eating sugar without knowing. Some of it’s common names include:
In fact, anything ending in “-ose” is a good way to spot sugar. But sugar has some uncommon, and not easily recognizable, names too. Some of these are:
- High-Fructose Corn Syrup
- Cane Juice Crystal
- Malt Syrup
And even some healthy-sounding names:
- Beet sugar
- Agave Nectar
Okay, quick question.
What is the number one cause of excess sugar leading to tooth decay?
- a) Candy, Pastries, Dessert
- b) Cereal, Granola Bars
- c) Condiments
- d) Soda, Juice
If you picked “D) Soda, Juice” you are correct!
The leading cause of tooth decay comes from excess sugar in sweetened beverages. And even though all the above have hidden sugar. It’s the soda, juice, and other sweetened beverages that amount for the most tooth decay.
That one really threw us off. We could’ve sworn it was candy and pastries. Talk about sneaky!
Tips to Protect Against Sugar
1) Avoid Common Sugar Pits
Avoiding or limiting candy, soda, and sweets is an easy way to cut back on sugar. And don’t forget the “healthy” sounding foods and beverages such as:
- Fruit Juice
- Granola Bars
- Gummy Vitamins
2) Know how to spot hidden sugar
The above list of common sugar names is a starting point. But reading ingredient labels is a great practice to start. Processed foods, even “health foods” usually contain added sugar. So when you can, opt for whole foods, fruits, and veggies.
3) Develop Good Dental Hygiene
Brushing our kid’s teeth is not what we’d call “fun.” But good brushing skills can help protect our kiddo’s dental health. Teaching them to brush well and often, preferably after meals rather than twice a day, can help develop skills that continue into adulthood. And can reduce the amount of sugar left on our kiddo’s teeth.
On that note, we’re gonna go brush our teeth. Happy brushing!