Children are taught the importance of brushing their teeth at a young age. When I was little, brushing my teeth before bed was an event that I always looked forward to. This was mostly due to the tiny paper cups that I used to rinse out my mouth. Each one had a new joke printed on it, so, in addition to maintaining a healthy mouth, I was also beefing up my comedy chops. As much as I disliked going to the dentist, I knew I could always look forward to picking out a prize at the end of my appointment. Heck, there was even an entire television show dedicated to proper oral hygiene called, The Adventures of Timmy the Tooth. It followed the titular Timmy and his trusty sidekick Brushbrush as they battled The Cavity Goon, and I tuned in every week.
I never got a cavity. In fact, I still haven't gotten one to this day, but I remember a few of my friends getting them. It never seemed like that big of a deal, and even when it did happen it was only one or two cavities tops. These days, however, cavities seem to be much more widespread among children. The CDC reported that 42 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 11 get cavities in their baby teeth. Additionally, 21 percent of kids ages 6 to 11 have gotten cavities in their permanent teeth. You don't have to be a dentist to know that these numbers are troubling.
Which brings us to the most potentially shocking story yet: just last month, a 3-year-old boy from New Zealand was forced to have 11 teeth removed as a result of the uncommonly high levels of sugar in his diet. No parent wants this for their child, so many have turned to "sugar-free" beverages like diet sodas or fruit juice to satisfy their children's sweet tooth without all of the added sugar. Unfortunately, this alternative might not be any healthier for our teeth. Keep scrolling to learn about the hidden dangers of sugar-free drinks, as well as what you can do to make sure your kids stay cavity-free all through childhood.
It's no secret that our world is addicted to sugar. Everything from pasta sauce to salad dressing is overflowing with extra grams of it. The biggest source, however, is soft drinks. Just look at this chart detailing how many packets of sugar are in some of your favorite drinks.
While no one should be consuming this much sugar on a regular basis, it is especially damaging to children.
You might think that brushing twice daily will negate the effects of any sugar you consume during the day, but that simply isn't the case. Proper brushing techniques are a great first step to a healthy mouth, but the journey doesn't end there.
Some parents have gone as far as putting soda in their little one's sippy cup. Baby teeth are significantly weaker than permanent teeth, and can hardly resist the barrage of sugar and acid that soft drinks throw at them. It's no wonder that dentists around the world are having to extract a large number of baby teeth.
As a result, parents have begun giving their children "sugar-free" drinks, which they believe to be easier on their teeth. This is not the case.
Many sugar-free drinks contain acidic additives that soften tooth enamel. This also happens when you drink beverages that do contain sugar. The sugar from the drink reacts to the plaque already covering your teeth and produces harmful acids.
To make matters worse, sugar isn't easy to escape. Vermont Dentistry says that "Sugar-laden soft drinks and snacks are available for consumption everywhere that children gather. Schools allow the presence of commercial candy and pop vending machines, as do after school activity venues ..."
So, what can we do to protect the next generation of teeth?
The Wisconsin Dental Association offers these three tips for cutting down your child's sugar consumption:
- Consume two or more servings of dairy food each day (calcium is important for maintaining healthy teeth)
- Limit fruit juice intake to four to six ounces each day
- Restrict sugary beverages to occasional use
Teaching your children how to enjoy sugar responsibly is just as important as making sure they brush and visit the dentist regularly. Sugary sodas can be enjoyed from time to time, but should be consumed in moderation. If you do decide to drink soda, be sure to drink it through a straw to minimize contact with your teeth and wash your mouth out with water afterward to decrease any lingering sugar and acid. Check out this video to learn more about the dangers of sugar-free drinks.
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