Sugar and Toddler Dental Health
Around Halloween time, I got to thinking about an interesting recent encounter I had with a child and her parent in our office: Parents are constantly worried about their child’s dental health, and rightly so. This parent was telling me, “Doctor I just can’t seem to give my child anything other than juice in her sippy cup. She refuses to go to sleep without a bottle full of juice and I know this is ruining her teeth.” This 3 year old had several cavities that her dentist had rightly attributed to sucking on a sippy cup or bottle full of juice all day long.” The mother lamented, “She refuses to drink only water!”
I sized up the situation and thought of a good answer. I squatted down to the child’s eye level and said, “Juice, candy and other foods can have lots of sugar. When we eat or drink too much sugar, tiny little sugar bugs can grow on our teeth and give us cavities.” The little girl was astonished that she had been feeding these “sugar bugs” on her teeth with the juice from her sippy cup. Several weeks later, the (very happy) mom came to me and said, “She is now drinking much more water and doesn’t require going to bed with a bottle full of juice anymore!” The girl had become fascinated with keeping the “sugar bugs” away!
This may be a helpful tool for all you parents to keep your kids aware of how too much sugar can hurt their teeth. Tell them (in a non-threatening manner) that if they eat too much sugar and don’t brush their teeth, the “sugar bugs” will stop by and munch on all the sugar on their teeth. I have given this advice quite a bit in my office, and all the children really seem to grasp the concept — and none of them have been scared by the idea.
Hope this helps!
~Dr. Peter Sears