Tooth Decay

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), the recognized leader in children’s oral health, today emphasized that the frequency and duration of oral exposure to foods and drinks with large amounts of sugar should be given the same consideration as diet itself when it comes to preventing tooth decay and cavities in children.

"Most parents know that they need to watch what their kids eat and make them brush regularly.  Unfortunately, many are not aware that letting kids sip on sugary drinks for hours or putting them to bed with a bottle of milk can be just as harmful," says Dr. Phil Hunke for the AAPD. "These habits can expose teeth to sugar for extended periods of time, increasing the risk of tooth decay."

While fluoridation and improved oral hygiene have resulted in fewer cavities overall among Americans in recent years, cavities in young children are on the rise. According to an August 2005 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the incidence of cavities in children ages two to five increased 15.2 percent from 1988-1994 to 1999-2002, the only child and adolescent age group to exhibit increased tooth decay.

"Nutrition is a very important part of oral health," says registered dietitian Rebecca S. Reeves, president of the American Dietetic Association. "Parents should encourage their children to enjoy a balanced variety of foods. Optimize kids’ health with snacks that are high in whole grains, such as pita bread or baked tortilla chips, and which include some protein like bean dip, peanut butter or yogurt. Space snacks far enough between meals so children’s appetites aren’t spoiled. With snacks as with meals, limit your children’s intake of added sugars."

Kids Should Finish Sugary Foods and Drinks Right Away, Not Linger Healthy eating and drinking not only plays an integral role in overall health, it can have a profound impact on oral hygiene. To keep the frequency and duration of sugar exposure in check, the AAPD offers these recommendations:

Fill sippy cups with water only. Children shouldn’t sip on sugary drinks or munch on sugary foods for extended periods of time. If you give your child beverages other than water, serve them in a can or glass and limit consumption time. If you do provide sugary drinks in sippy or other types of cups, instruct children to finish them quickly. Take away the cup after a reasonable amount of time.

Don’t let children go to sleep with bottles. Even milk can cause tooth decay. If you do put your child to sleep with a bottle, it should contain water only.

Limit candy. Sucking on candy is another way that kids can extend exposure to sugar. Limit sweets and the time it takes for kids to consume them, and make sure children brush afterward.

Brush after meals. Have your children maintain proper oral hygiene, including brushing after meals and snacks and daily flossing, to reduce the risk of cavities.

For more information about how to keep your children’s teeth healthy, visit www.aapd.org.