The holidays are infamous for being diet-breakers, but let’s not forget the effect excessive sweets can have on your oral health! Don’t worry, we aren’t going to convince you to pass on pecan pie or skip the cider; however, it is important to continue practicing healthy habits, even with some well-deserved indulgences peppered into your seasonal celebrations. Sugar affects everyone’s teeth, no matter how old. Younger children’s smiles are still in the process of development, which means they need added care throughout the growing stages.
The Start of Gum Disease and Cavities
To better understand why it’s important to monitor sugar consumption, we must first address the development of gum disease and cavities. When you eat normally throughout the day, food particles and bacteria collect in your mouth and on your teeth. As you brush and floss, these particles and bacteria are removed with no harm done. However, the presence of sugar fuels the bacteria, which creates enamel-destroying acid; left untreated, the acids corrode a hole in the tooth that deepens over time. Additionally, infection can occur in the gum tissues and lead to swelling, bleeding, and pain. It’s important to limit the bacteria’s opportunity to spread by practicing consistent oral care, and keep your mouth free of disease and infection.
Dental Decay in Children
When teeth are still in development, the story can be a bit different. The above still applies, but the stakes are higher during the formative years of cutting teeth. It isn’t uncommon to hear “oh, they’re just baby teeth”, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Child tooth decay is a rampant condition and, although completely preventable, is five times as common as asthma. It’s entirely possible for the infection to spread beneath the gum line, and compromise the healthy adult teeth growing below. Until children are a certain age, it’s imperative for parents to teach sustainable healthy habits. Fortunately, we have a tip or two for the whole family!
When it comes to limiting sugar intake, but also being practical enough to live a little (especially during the holidays!) we stress that it’s actually the timing of sugar consumption that affects dental health more than the quantity consumed. That means less sweets eaten throughout longer periods of the day can actually harm your teeth more than a large serving of dessert eaten at once. Additionally, serving sweets along with the meal can also prevent over-exposure, as they are less likely to sit on the teeth for extended periods of time. Bearing these facts in mind, we suggest instead of leaving sweets all over the house, limit consumption until meal time, and then allow yourselves and the kids to enjoy your share of holiday confections!
Dr. Ernesto Mireles
Salinas Dental and Implant Centers
608 E. Boronda Rd., Suite B
Salinas, CA 93906
696 Walnut Ave., #1
Greenfield, CA 93927