Most of us rush our little ones to brush their teeth after eating candy as we all know that excess sugar consumption can lead to cavities. Although we may attempt to control the frequency and the amount of sugar our children eat on a daily basis; it’s very natural, unfortunately, for kids to have a sweet tooth. The important thing then is to manage it properly to prevent the formation of dental decay.
It is essential to understand the science behind sugar and decay so that we can apply this knowledge to modify our everyday diet in a practical manner.
Bacteria exist in various areas of our digestive tract. Most of us are familiar with the now popular “probiotics” supplements, which promote natural and balanced bacteria colony distribution in our system. Since the oral cavity is the beginning part of the human digestive tract, there are always lots of bacteria that colonize the mouth. One of these bacteria is called Streptococcus mutans, which is the type that causes dental decay.
S. mutans depend on sucrose to survive and thrive. When it feeds on sucrose, it releases lactic acid which then dissolves the calcium in the enamel. Fortunately, our saliva contains a lot of minerals that continuously heal and repair this damage so our teeth are protected. The fluoride that’s contained in water, toothpaste, and mouthwash also help to repair the everyday damage to our enamel. In the ideal situation, the damage and repair process are perfectly balanced against each other so our enamel stays healthy and intact.
When we consume sugary items infrequently and brush our teeth twice a day to make sure that most of the sugar remnants are cleaned off, the repair process is adequate to counteract the acid process. On the other hand, when there is frequent and high levels of sugar exposure, the speed of acid process and enamel dissolution occur rapidly. As a result, cavities develop on the enamel surfaces as the repair process becomes overwhelmed. In cases where oral hygiene is not maintained properly, this can also happen as sugar stays in the mouth for an extended period of time
As parents, we need to place an emphasis on limiting the amount of sugar in our children’s daily diet. I typically recommend my patients to drink no more than one sweet beverage per day. This includes soda, juice, chocolate milk, sweet iced, tea, and any sports drinks. Candy should be limited to parties and special occasions instead of being a daily snack.
Monitoring our kids’ oral hygiene is also very important. By physically brushing and flossing away food debris, enamel surfaces have a chance to take a break from acid attacks and repair itself. Using toothpaste and mouthwashes that contain fluoride can also be very helpful adjuncts in prevention, especially for those kids who are lazy about flossing daily.
Finally, going to the dentist office every six months for a professional cleaning and oral exam is one of the most crucial aspects of maintaining dental health. By diagnosing cavities at the early stage, simple treatments can be carried out instead of complicated ones that also tend to be more costly.
If you have any questions about the cavity process or the effect of sugar on dental health, please feel free to contact me at Red Rock Kids Dental.