DIETARY HABITS & TOOTH DECAY
HOW IS MY CHILD’S DIETARY HABITS RELATED TO TOOTH DECAY?
Without dietary sugars, caries-producing bacteria will starve. Unfortunately it is impossible to eliminate sugar intake in your growing child, but their effects can be mitigated with proper dietary habits.
Formula milk usually comes with the addition of simple sugars (check the ingredient labels) such as sucrose. Nighttime bottle-feeding with formula milk is the primary cause of Early Childhood Caries, allowing the sugars to stay on your child’s teeth all night to cause decay.
After the first year of life, when your child begins to get most nutrition from food, night feeds should be stopped. Your child should be weaned off the milk bottle and onto the sippy cup with fresh milk instead. After their last drink at night, your child’s teeth should be brushed thoroughly before bed.
After the age of 2, your child may acquire a taste for sugary snacks and treats such as biscuits, sweets and chocolates. All of these snacks have high refined-sugar contents. They should only be limited to occasional treats, and taken as desserts immediately after main meals. Should your child want to snack between meals, healthier alternatives such as fruits, unsweetened yoghurt and cheese is recommended.
Cheese in particular is not only high in calcium and protein, but it also contains an enzyme that prevents caries formation. Snacking is also common in older children and teenagers, and all the way into adulthood. In particular, sweet drinks and fruit juice concentrates are a large source of sugars.
Carbonated drinks and isotonic energy drinks are particularly devastating as their high acidic content accelerates the caries process by dissolving away the outer layer of the teeth. Where possible, plain water, fresh unflavored milk and freshly squeezed juice is preferable.