When sugary foods and drinks are consumed, bacteria which are naturally present in the mouth mix with the sugar to produce acid. This acid attacks the hard outer layer over the tooth called enamel and over time, causes dental cavities.
Frequently consuming sugary products continually tops up the acid levels in the mouth and can result in more serious dental problems over a prolonged period.
Children are particularly vulnerable to this process during the first six years of life, as the tooth enamel is still relatively soft and constantly mineralised with calcium and other nutrients.
It’s best to cut down on sugary drinks and confectionary for better dental health and also to prevent any possible future weight issues.
Tips – Sugary Drinks
Fizzy and sugary drinks can cause tooth decay if consumed too frequently.
Avoid giving a child fizzy or sweetened drinks from a bottle as it only prolongs dental exposure to harmful sugars and acid.
Drinking sugary drinks through a straw can potentially reduce the damage to teeth.
The same also applies to sports drinks for adults; using the flip lid or straw can minimise damage if the fluid is not swirled in the mouth.
Fruit juice contributes towards one of the ‘five-a-day’ portions recommended for fruit and vegetables.
Pure unsweetened fruit juices are acidic and contain natural sugars, therefore it is recommended that they are diluted when given to young children (dilute one measure of pure juice to ten measures of water). Unsweetened juices are not suitable for babies should only be given from a cup, at mealtimes, or with snacks from six months onwards.
Fruit cordials should be of the “no added sugar” type. According to Safefood: “If you drink juice, choose unsweetened real fruit juice not juice drinks as these have lots of added sugar and very little real fruit.”
- Contrary to previous beliefs, avoid brushing teeth immediately after consuming sugary foods or drinks as it can remove some of the enamel layer. It’s best to wait aprox one hour before brushing to allow for saliva production and remineralisation of teeth.
- Treats are “treats” and should not consumed on a daily basis!
- Sweets should be consumed over a short space of time, rather than spread throughout the day and are best eaten at the end of a meal when saliva production can help neutralise the effects of the tooth-attacking acid.
- Avoid sugary treats that stay in the mouth for longer e.g. lollipops and toffee because these can prolong the acid attack.
- Never eat food or consume drinks other than water after brushing teeth at night time.
- Give your child something alkaline to eat or drink, such as a small piece of cheese or a glass of milk, after something sweet. This will help to neutralise the acid in the oral cavity.
- Sugar free chewing gum can also stimulate saliva production thus neutralising the acidity in the mouth.
- Water and milk are the best drinks and some tooth-friendly snacks include plain popcorn, fruit, cube of cheese, raw vegetables and yogurt.
Contact the clinic for further information:
Ellen Roche Dietitian
Nutri Vive Nutrition Clinic, No. 49 John St, Kilkenny
(087) 6802248 www.nutrivive.ie