When your child eats or drinks sugars, the germs (bacteria) in your child’s mouth mix with the sugars to make a mild acid. This acid attacks the hard outer layer of teeth (also called enamel). It can make holes (or cavities) in the teeth.
The damage that sugars do depends on how much sugar goes into the mouth and how long it stays in the mouth.
Any kind of sugar will mix with germs in the mouth. Natural sugars can have the same effect on teeth as white (or refined) sugar out of the bag! Many healthy foods contain natural sugars. Milk contains natural sugar.
If you put your child to bed with a bottle of milk, the milk stays in the mouth for a long time. This may cause cavities. Unsweetened fruit juice may have no added sugar, but fruit juice has natural sugars in it. If your child is always sipping juice between meals, the teeth are being coated in sugars over and over again.
Water is the best drink to have between meals. Starchy foods, like teething biscuits, break down to make sugars. If these kinds of food stay in your child’s mouth long enough, they will make the acid that can cause cavities. Your job is to clean your child’s teeth, not to stop your child from having milk, juice, bread or noodles. Your child needs these foods to stay healthy.
Read the labels of the packaged food you buy. By law, everything ingredient in packaged food is listed by weight. So if a sugar is listed first, you know that there is more sugar than anything else.
These are sugars you can look for on labels: corn sweeteners; corn syrup; dextrose; fructose; glucose; honey; maple syrup; molasses and sucrose.
Also, check to see if liquid medicines (such as cough syrup) have sugars. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to give you medicines that are sugar-free.