Dental cavities form when plaque and sugar build up on the tooth over time. The bacteria in the plaque break down the sugar, producing acid which attacks the tooth tissue. The important thing to remember is it isn’t the quantity but the frequency of sugar intake that counts. Every time we eat something sugary the mouth undergoes an acid attack for 45 minutes, before the saliva has a chance to neutralise it. Teeth can cope with acid attacks up to five times a day, so try to limit children to three meals and two snacks.
Many parents make the mistake of offering their kids so-called healthy snacks which are actually packed with natural but no less damaging sugars. For example, dried fruits such as raisins have a high concentration of sugar and stick to the tooth surface. Other foods with hidden sugars include ketchup and some flavoured crisps. Try to stick to savoury snacks such as cheese, which neutralises acid in the mouth. Other recommended foods include fresh fruit, rice cakes and savoury sandwiches. Try to avoid fizzy drinks and fruit juice, even diluted.
If you can’t cut them out completely, make sure they are only drunk with or immediately after a main meal, when the mouth will already be undergoing an acid attack anyway. Don’t let your youngster keep going back to a cup of juice and sipping it throughout the day. This just prolongs the acid attack on their teeth. The best drinks for children are water or milk from a cup.