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Limit Your Kid's Sugar for Better Dental Health

How often and when kids have sweets is as important in prevention, dentists say

SATURDAY, April 1, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- How often and when children consume sugary foods and beverages is as important as how much they consume when it comes to preventing tooth decay and cavities, says the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD).

"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. These habits can expose teeth to sugar for extended periods of time, increasing the risk of tooth decay," said Dr. Phil Hunke, in a prepared statement for AAPD.

Overall, American children have had fewer cavities in recent years, but the incidence of cavities among children ages two to five increased 15.2 percent from 1988-1994 to 1999-2002. This is the only child and adolescent age group with increased rates of tooth decay.

The AAPD offers the following tips on how to limit the frequency and duration of sugar exposure among young children:

  • 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 children beverages other than water, serve them in a glass or can and limit consumption time. If you do put sugary drinks in sippy cups, tell your children to finish them quickly and take away the drink after a reasonable amount of time.
  • Don't allow children to go to sleep with a milk bottle, because even milk can cause tooth decay. If you put your child to bed with a bottle, it should be filled with water only.
  • Limit your children's candy consumption. Sucking on candy extends exposure to sugar. Make sure children brush their teeth after having any candy.
  • Have your children floss daily and brush after meals and snacks.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about child dental health.

SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, news release, March 20, 2006
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