Preventing Childhood Tooth Decay: How To Reduce Your Child’s Sugar Intake

Sugar is a major culprit when it comes to premature tooth decay in kids and adults. Changing your diet can be a result of changing your own eating habits, but it may be more difficult to convince your kids to eat their vegetables instead of eating brownies. Here are a few ways you can reduce your child's overall sugar intake and increase their dental health in the process.

Water, Water, Everywhere

In fact, water should be your child's only drink of choice, besides milk, if your family drinks milk. Soda, juice, and even an excess of milk lead to early tooth decay, especially in toddlers. Condition your child early to accept water when thirsty, and never put anything in a bottle or sippy cup that is not water after your baby has been weaned. Save the sweet beverages for special occasions only. 

Make Sugar-Free Sweet Treats

Once you eliminate refined sugars from the diet, you'll notice the natural sweetness in ripe, seasonal fruits. You tastes buds adjust to reduced sugar, you can learn to be satisfied with less sweets, and to appreciate the sweetness in things you may not have considered to be "dessert" before.

You'll be surprised to learn you can make ice cream out of frozen bananas. Allow some bananas to ripen to the point that have some brown spots. Then, you can slice and freeze them. Once they are frozen, you can put some frozen bananas into the blender with a little milk, and they produce a milkshake-like sweet dessert.

You can even flavor banana ice cream with cocoa powder for chocolate, or add in other fruits like cherries or pineapple for a different flavor. For a truer ice cream texture, you can purchase a machine that pulverizes frozen fruit without the need for added liquid--producing a lovely sorbet. Fruit has enough sugar in it naturally to make any dessert satisfying.

Always be sure to brush your teeth after eating fruit based desserts, because the sugars, while not as plentiful or as destructive as added sugars, are still able to damage enamel over time.

Choose Other Rewards

Part of the reason kids have such a huge problems with dental decay is because sugar is just so prevalent. You can often provide better rewards for kids than candy. Sugar is:

  • used to celebrate birthdays. Birthdays are special occasions, and they ought to be celebrated. Moderation is important, but a sugar overload isn't the best birthday gift. A small slice of cake for each child is plenty, if you decide to serve cake. You may choose a less sweet approach by making a watermelon cake instead, or by serving something savory that kids still like to eat. If you do serve cake, try to avoid serving candy or cookies on the side as additional party treats. 
  • used as incentive to do better in school. Teachers often give children candy as rewards, and parents may bring it in to celebrate different holidays. Remember your child will get enough candy for events like Valentine's Day and Halloween without help from school. When it is your turn to bring food, bring healthful options like fresh fruit, which most kids enjoy. Encourage teachers to hand out non-food rewards, like erasers, pencils, or five minutes of extra free time. 
  • handed out at parties as favors. Instead of sending kids home with more candy, provide something useful or active instead. For example, you could send each child home with a set of bubbles to blow or a skipping rope from the dollar store. 
  • used to fill Christmas stockings. Christmas brings cookies, fudge, and baking, and stockings are often filled with chocolate and gumdrops. You can reduce sugar by filling stockings with one edible thing your child enjoys, such as nuts or dried fruit, but then you can spend the rest of the space on small toys, like matchbox cars, or useful things like gift cards, socks, or jewelry. 
  • a reward for good behavior in the grocery store. If your child behaves, a candy bar is not the best reward. Maybe some quality time with your when you get home from the store, or extra time to play outside. Maybe your child can choose what you have for dinner that night.

Be creative, but don't reward with candy. Your child's teeth and dentist, like one at North Phoenix Pediatric Dentistry, will thank you.