For many parents, sugar is a frustrating little conundrum when it comes to child diet. On the one hand, too much sugar can lead to tooth decay and other dental issues – but on the other, it’s often tough to find snacks your kids like or cook regularly without any sugar.
At Walker Pediatric dentistry, we’re here to help. Let’s look at how sugar fuels cavities and potentially makes children’s dentist visits more necessary, and then let’s also take a look at an alternative sweetener that might help you cut sugar completely out of your child’s diet.
Sugar feeds harmful bacteria found in the teeth, creating acid that will erode tooth enamel over time. This is what causes plaque in the mouth and eventually cavities, and it’s why sugar can be so problematic for children in particular.
Before buying foods or snacks for your kids, check the nutritional information for sugar content. Look to avoid sugary drinks like soda, fruit juice and sports drinks. Consider adding more fruits and vegetables to the diet – this will cut out much of your sugar, along with other health benefits.
One alternative that’s growing in popularity is xylitol. Xylitol is similar to sugar, with the same sweetening benefits, but lacks many of the negative qualities found in sugar.
Rather than being found in the cane plant like sugar, xylitol is naturally found in fruits and vegetables. While proteins and carbohydrates in regular sugar fuels cavities, xylitol has a genetic makeup that stops this. It prevents acidic attacks from happening on the teeth, and can actually strengthen enamel and prevent tooth decay – sugar does the opposite. In addition, xylitol also stimulates saliva production in the mouth, one of the primary ways the mouth fights cavities and helps restore its pH balance.
Xylitol comes in granules that are similar to regular sugar, and it’s very easy to substitute. It can be bought from health food stores and natural grocers, typically in the baking aisle. Try substituting sugar for xylitol, and see if you or your children even notice. There’s also gum available that’s sweetened with xylitol.