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Sugar and Toddlers’ Teeth

by Ruth Kinzey
Apr 06, 2012

If you are a parent who has toddlers, you can’t help but be concerned about news reports describing the increase in preschoolers’ tooth decay.

Nationwide, dentists are seeing a surge in this medical problem, which doesn’t appear to be linked to any specific income level. And although the CDC reported in 2007 that preventive measures, such as sealants, had helped reduce decay in children six and older, there were warning signs even then for children ages two to five years.

One contributor to this trend appears to be linked to the sugar found in juices and snacks. In December, The Environmental Working Group (EWG) announced the results of a study in which two-thirds of the 84 brands of children’s breakfast cereals reviewed contained more added sugar by weight than government recommended. In fact, the EWG discovered that only one out of every four cereals for children met their recommendations.

Fruit juices, a favorite of many young children, contribute to the level of sugar passing through the mouths of these babes as well. Add to the equation carbohydrate-rich foods, filled with sugars and starches, which are fed to little ones in the form of ready-to-go-processed snacks, and the toddlers are likely collecting a mouthful of future cavities.

Even gummy vitamins, while supplying important vitamins and minerals, can be problematic due to the soft and sticky residue left on baby teeth.

With toddler tooth decay becoming so common, there is even an increase in the use of general anesthesia for this age group, as toddlers aren’t likely to sit still through the lengthy procedures necessary to correct these dental problems.

One may argue these tikes will lose their baby teeth, so none of this really matters. But if these sugary snacks, cereals and juices are impacting the dental health of these preschoolers, one can argue that eating habits and sugar cravings also are being established, which can manifest later in the form of obesity and juvenile diabetes.

Armed with such knowledge, manufacturers have an opportunity: Examine ways to reduce sugar levels in the foods and juices frequently enjoyed to young children. 

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