We all know that sugar is bad for us, and if it wasn’t so delicious we’d have no problem giving it up. Unfortunately, sugary sweet treats aren’t going to get any less yummy anytime soon, so what can we do? It is important to understand the relationship between sugar and your teeth, especially for children (who will carry the habits they learn now into adulthood) to keep sugar intake to a minimum. This means educating yourself on types of sugar, the recommended intake amount per day, and creating good eating habits.
Natural sugars vs. added sugar. What’s the big difference?
Sugar naturally occurs in 2 forms. Lactose are the sugars found in milk, and fructose are the sugars found in fruits. For the most part these sugars are fine for you. However, added sugar is a whole other matter. Added sugar is found under many names: white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and even raw sugar are just some of the names added sugar is found under, and they can be found in many prepared foods and drinks such as sodas, fruit juice, sports drinks, candy, ice cream, and even baked goods. These are the sugars that lead to tooth decay.
How much added sugar is okay?
The World Health Organization recommends that an adult consumes no more than 6 tsp. of added sugar per day. Children should only have 3 tsp. per day. 6 teaspoons is approximately half of the sugar found in one can of soda.
What about juice?
Juice is often marketed as healthier than soft drinks, but is also full of added sugar. If you are going to give your children juice we recommend the following:
- Children ages 1 – 6 drink less than 6 oz. of juice per day
- Children ages 7 – 18 drink less than 12 oz. of juice per day
Creating healthy eating habits
If knowing the difference between natural and added sugars is the first step and determining if you are consuming too much added sugar is the second step, then healthy eating habits are the final step when it comes to sugar. Reduce your sugar intake until it falls under the recommended amount, and offer your children water or milk instead of juice. Remember that if you have little ones around it is important that you are setting a good example.
Here’s a tip about sugar and your teeth: Allowing children to sip their juice actually gives the bacteria more time to cause tooth decay. Let your children have juice during mealtimes only, and don’t let them leave the table with it. If they are going to sip give them water or milk.
Of course, the most important tool in your fight against sugar is brushing your teeth twice a day, and flossing once a day. Brushing and flossing helps to fit the growth of sugar-fed bacteria.
For more tips to reduce sugary snacking check out these mouth healthy tips from the American Dental Association.