and ADA spokesperson Dr. Mary Hayes teaches them this
simple, but important, rhyme: “Sugar is fun to eat, but
not good for your teeth!”
That’s because your child might love sweet treats, but
the bacteria in his or her mouth loves them even more.
“Sucrose (sugar) is the ‘food’ for the bacteria that cause
tooth decay,” Dr. Hayes says. “Those bacteria produce
acid that etches away the teeth.”
Limiting the amount of sugar your entire family eats is
good for your teeth and key to your overall health. Here
are some dentist-recommended ways to start saying
good-bye to unnecessary sugar throughout the day.
1. Know the Limits
When choosing a snack, keep an eye on
added sugar (sweeteners like corn syrup or white sugar
that are added to prepared foods). Naturally occurring
sugars are less worrisome, as they are found in healthy
choices like milk and fruit.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that
people age 3 and older should consume no more than 12.
5 tsp. each day of added sugar. (The same as one can of
soda.) The World Health Organization states that adults
should consume no more than 6 tsp. of added sugar, and
children should have no more than 3 tsp.
When reading labels, you’ll see sugar is listed in grams.
Since 1 tsp. of sugar equals 4 grams, aim to make sure the
foods you are feeding your child fall between 12 to 50
grams a day.
2.The Truth About Juice
Because juice is high in sugar
and calories, water and milk are always the best options
for your little one. In fact, water and milk are the best
beverages for your teeth, period. (That goes for grown-ups,
If your children drink juice, here are two things to know:
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends
that children ages 1-6 have no more than 4-6 oz. of
juice each day. Children ages 7 to 18 should drink no
more than 8-12 oz. (Many juice boxes are about 6 oz.,
so younger children should have no more than one per
day, and older children no more than two.)
Allowing your child to sip on juice throughout the day
puts him or her at higher risk for tooth decay because
you’re giving that cavity-causing bacteria more
opportunities to eat and produce the acid that eats
away at teeth. This can also happen with juice that is
watered down. “Even though the volume of sugar has
decreased, you’ve added the time that it takes to drink
it,” Dr. Shenkin says.
So what’s a parent to do? Limit the amount of juice
your children drink, and always offer water or milk first.
If your child does drink juice, serve the recommended,
age-appropriate limits at mealtimes only. When your
family is done eating, clean up any leftover juice
instead of letting your children leave the table with it.
3. Skip the Soda
Call it soda, call it pop. But sugary,
carbonated beverages by any name are bad news for
your child’s teeth. “One can of soda is the amount of
sugar recommended for three days for a child,” Dr.
In fact, a February 2016 study in the Journal of the
American Dental Association found a strong
association between sugary drinks and poor dental
health in teenagers. Researchers asked teens 14-19
in Mexico about how many sugary beverages they
drank, then examined their teeth. They found 31.7%
had tooth erosion, which means their enamel had
been eaten away. The main culprit? Soda.
4. Be Picky About Sticky Snacks
If you’ve been under
the impression that gummy or sticky fruit snacks are
healthy alternatives, you’re not alone. Many parents
are surprised to learn they are really closer to candy
than fruit, especially when it comes to sugar. “Fruit
rollups and other dried fruit snacks are like nature’s
candy,” Dr. Shenkin says. “It is like candy, but in some
respect it’s worse than candy because it sticks to teeth
longer than things like milk chocolate, which is easier
to wash away.”
Even foods like raisins, which are often promoted as
an all-natural snack option, can be troublesome.
“The raisin is one of the worst foods because they’re
so sticky and they actually adhere to teeth and stay
there for an extended amount of time,” he says.
“The sugar in that food is being consumed by the
bacteria in our mouth during that time.”
5. Serve Carbs with Care
Whether it’s the crunch or the
fact that they’re shaped like their favorite animals,
kids love crackers and chips. The truth? “Many
crackers are cookies with salt,” Dr. Hayes says. Not
only do the carbohydrates in things like crackers
and chips break down into sugar, they also tend to
get stuck in the tops of your teeth for long periods of
6. Set an Example
You’d do anything for your kids.
Now, are you ready to do all of the above for yourself
too? Dr. Shenkin says setting an example can make a
big difference in your whole family’s health. Eat well,
brush twice a day for two minutes and floss once a day.
“If you want to change your child’s habits, it isn’t
just about what they do,” he says. “Do the same
thing with them.