More Sugar Today Means More Cavities Later - Hardy Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics

More Sugar Today Means More Cavities Later

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Woman holding up an image of a sad face on a piece of paper in front of her mouth.

If your parents tell you that sugar will rot your teeth, they are actually telling you the truth. Sugar is directly related to how much plaque you have in your mouth, which is the substance that decays your teeth and irritates your gums. Even if you love having sweet treats here and there, you might want to rethink how much sugar you are ingesting. Find out how the sugar you eat today might turn into cavities later!


The Connection Between Sugar and Cavities

How much sugar you consume is directly related to how high your risk for cavities is. In fact, the more sugar you eat, the more your tooth will decay. This is because when you eat, sugars and starches in your foods and drinks mix with bacteria in your mouth. That mixture creates a sticky and clear substance called plaque. That plaque sticks to your teeth, especially along the gum line, and it’s not washed away by simply drinking water. What’s worse is that this plaque is also transparent, so you can’t see it unless you look close.


When you run your tongue along your teeth and feel like they are slimy or grimy, it’s because there is plaque caked on the teeth. Plaque is especially bad because it is acidic. Even though the teeth are the hardest substance in the body, the acidic plaque can erode away tooth enamel. Essentially, it decays the outside of a tooth and gets inside it. Once inside, it creates cavities all over and infections inside a tooth. Cavities are areas of the teeth where the tooth has decayed, and you can’t get those tooth parts back once decay has happened. That’s why you must prevent cavities by limiting your sugar consumption.


Tooth model of a tooth with decay surrounded by chocolate candies.

How Much Sugar Do We Consume?

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), men should not have more than 38 grams of sugar per day and women should not have more than 25 grams. Children should only be having up to 6 grams of added sugars and infants should have little to none, if possible. However, the amount of sugar that children are eating, is way more than most parents would think. And that sugar isn’t coming from pure desserts. It comes from bread, peanut butter and jelly, applesauce, graham crackers and other snacks that parents think are healthy.


Here’s the facts:

  • The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that children 3 and under get at least 12 grams of sugar a day.
  • 4 to 8 year-olds get an average of 21 grams a day.
  • Children up to 18 years old get around 34 grams or more.
  • The average American gets about 22 teaspoons or more of sugar throughout their day that is usually hidden in the foods they eat.
  • It’s no surprise that 30-50% of children now get Type II Diabetes and up to 92% of people have tooth decay. It all stems from sugar!


What Can You Do?

Eating patterns and food choices play an important role in preventing or promoting tooth decay. Heavy sugar consumption has long been associated with how much tooth decay a child has. Here are some tips for limiting sugar intake and for helping your child take care of their teeth:

  • Look at food labels for the sugar content of foods for you and your children. Avoid all foods that have more than a few grams of added sugars in them. Be especially careful about cereals and give your child whole-grain cereals with fruit instead of sugar cereals.
  • Never give your child soda (especially in bottles to infants). Limit juice consumption and opt for juices that are flavored but have zero grams of added sugars. If your child wants flavor, look to sugar-free sweeteners such as Crystal Light.
  • Have treats be something special instead of something that is had at every meal.
  • Get your child dental sealants (more about this below).
  • Monitor how often and how well your child is brushing and flossing their teeth. As a parent, you will have to brush their teeth for the first few years with fluoride toothpaste until their small hands have the dexterity to brush themselves. Children should brush at least morning (after breakfast) and night before bed. Brushing another time during the day can reduce their risk for tooth decay.
  • Make sure your child is seeing a dentist from the time they are a year old, or within 6 months of getting their first tooth. Children should see a dentist at least twice a year, just like adults need to do.


Image of a boy holding donuts in his hands with a surprised look on his face.

How We Can Help

We can help your child avoid severe tooth decay if they come in for their dental checkups every 6 months. This is a time for us to teach the whole family how to brush and floss properly to prevent cavities. Children are especially prone to cavities in their delicate baby teeth, which is why we also provide dental sealants for children up through the teen years. Dental sealants protect the narrow grooves of your teeth from plaque accumulation. We essentially coat your child’s teeth in a plastic coating, getting all the grooves where plaque gets stuck. That plastic coating can prevent your child’s teeth from getting cavities for years. This is a great investment for parents and children alike!


Stop Cavities Later By Limiting Sugar Today

Cavities are no joke for a child. When the baby teeth are so tiny, one cavity can make tooth loss very real for a child, creating many oral health problems when they are young. Sometimes the sugar is in their food without you realizing it. Take notice of what foods your child is eating and limit their sugar as much as possible. Not only will this help them to have healthy teeth, but it will help their tiny bodies grow big and strong. To schedule your child’s dental check-up, call Hardy Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics today at (720) 887-6003!