How Much Sugar Per Day?
Humans are neurologically wired to seek out sugar. The brain treats the stuff as a reward mechanism and the release of serotonin is so pleasurable that we start to crave it again after initial consumption. Kids in particular are sensitive to any neurological stimulant, so it’s good to be careful when packing your kids’ lunches to ensure you don’t include too many sugary snacks and drinks that could lead to dependence.
Indeed, it’s more common than you think – parents filling their children’s lunchbox with a variety of snacks that appear healthy but, in fact, contain more sugar than is recommended as a daily dose. Even a lunch that contains ‘natural’ foods like sultanas, yogurts and a juice box can contain up to twice the daily recommended amount of sugar. Not only can this leave your kids exhausted in the afternoons, it can pose a serious risk to their oral health and teeth condition.
Chips, chocolates, lollies and other foods high in sugar may present appealing packaging and engineered textures that keep kids coming back for more, but they are unhealthy and will do terrible things for your child’s long-term oral health.
Parents need to guide their children and set strong foundations for oral health when they are young to ensure that they retain good practice as they grow older and develop adult teeth. What would you do if your children’s teeth were beginning to rot before they had even had the chance to develop properly and fall out on their own?
How Sugar is Responsible for Tooth Decay
To prevent cavities, it is important to know what causes cavities!
There are lots of different kinds of bacteria living on and around your teeth. Whilst many are beneficial to the oral ecosystem, there are certain harmful oral bacteria that feed on the sugars in the food you consume and drink. These bacteria grow to create a little community call “plaque” which is sticky and allows the bacteria to stay on the teeth longer. The bacteria in plaque turn sugar into energy they need, producing acid at the same time. The acids remain in the plaque and can gradually dissolve the enamel (protective outer layer of your teeth). Once cavities have formed in the enamel, the plaque and bacteria can reach the dentine (the softer, material underneath the enamel) thereby speeding up the process of tooth decay. Without treatment, plaque and bacteria will enter the pulp (the soft centre of the tooth which contains nerves & blood vessels). At this stage, your nerves will be exposed to bacteria, making your tooth very painful. The bacteria can also infect tissue within the pulp, causing a dental abscess.
Regularly cleaning your teeth can remove plaque, but if it’s allowed to build up, it can begin to break down the surface of your tooth. Children are usually more vulnerable to tooth decay than adults, as their teeth are still developing and the enamel is softer and easier to damage.
Sugar and Diabetes (Type II)
Furthermore, excessive sugar intake can create problems later in life with weight gain, obesity and heart disease. In 2016, 22% of children aged between 5 and 16 years old were overweight. To compound this, almost 37% of children had some stage of tooth decay in their baby teeth. Problems related to weight gain and sugar consumption can evolve into more serious conditions like Type II Diabetes, which, in 2017-18, affected 1 million Australians.
A good idea is to cut down your children’s sugar consumption by tapering off the volumes of sugar they consume. Fruit juices and soft drinks are particularly high in sugar content and should be avoided at all costs. These drinks can contain up to 50 grams of sugar in a single serving and are terrible in their capacity to stain and rot children’s teeth very quickly. They can also cause more serious conditions like we mentioned in the above paragraph.
It’s Time For A War On Sugar
Cutting out totally sugar from a diet too quickly can lead to withdrawal. Symptoms of sugar withdrawal can include headaches, sluggishness, irritability and fatigue. These tend to only last a couple of days and won’t have any impact on your children’s long-term health or happiness when you decide to reduce their sugar intake. It’s worth reducing your kids’ intake of sugary foods and beverages for so many reasons, despite the inevitability of withdrawal.
Expert nutritionists have communicated with parents that they need to think about what healthy foods and snacks they can include in their kids’ lunchbox in preparation for school. By swapping highly caloric, sugar-laden snacks with natural foods high in energy, you give your children a fantastic opportunity to remain happier and brighter for longer after they eat their lunch.
The National Nutrition Committee have recommended that vegetables, dairy products, wholegrains and lean sources of protein and fruit be consumed on a daily basis in their recommended volumes. Some other easy items in the lunchbox include cherry tomatoes, snack cucumbers, baby carrots and a handful of salad leaves. Baked beans and canned tuna are great alternatives to unhealthy snack foods too.
Contact Specialist Kids Dentist
Specialist Kids Dentist operates in Liverpool and Summer Hill, Sydney. If you’re worried about how much sugar your kids are consuming in their food and drinks or just need advice, give us a call on 02 9600 6848. We can also provide you handy hints for good oral hygiene to remove bacteria in the mouth and provide good long-term dental health.
We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about sugar, natural sugar’s effect on kids’ teeth and how much should be eaten each day. We do all dental work on children aged 0-18 so if your children need an appointment, call us today to book a high quality check-up with our friendly team.