Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sweets and Discipline for Children?s Oral Health

Posted by Sarah Sweetz Akhza at 6:31 PM
Sweets and Discipline for Children?s Oral Health

Dentists like Dr. Hicham Riba know that children tend to prefer sweets and similarly strong tastes like sour and salty than blander tastes are associated with vegetables and some fruits. Children (including infants) prefer sweet foods because they are biologically programmed to consume carbohydrate-rich foods for energy as they are still growing at a high rate. There are even experiments that measure how much children like sweet and sour foods; results show that children are drawn toward foods with higher concentration of sugars. It is no wonder that, even among fruits, children prefer some citrus fruits, apples, and strawberries than bananas, cucumbers, or tomatoes.

Children’s preference for strong flavors fades due to a combination of parental dietary regulation and the decreasing growth rate, also lowering the need for carbohydrates.

Their taste buds also mature, and by adolescence, gradually learn to prefer vegetables and even flavors they may not be accustomed to. While children are as young as about eleven years old, it is important that parents make an effort to regulate their children’s sugar consumption and encourage a healthy diet.

Sweets are rich sources of carbohydrates but must be eaten minimally because sugar helps oral bacteria thrive in the mouth. The human mouth is an ecosystem of microorganisms that are relatively harmless; oral bacteria can actually aid digestion. However, sweets contribute to the overpopulation of these bacteria, leading to periodontal disease and dental caries (tooth decay).

Saliva keeps oral bacteria at bay, but sweets make the mouth dry. Dr. Hicham Riba and other dentists agree that children must drink lots of water every day to keep the mouth properly salivated. Thorough brushing at least twice a day also keeps sugar and oral bacteria controlled in the mouth; some sweets get stuck to the teeth, increasing the risk for tooth decay. Parents must also help their children floss because most caries begin between the teeth and along the gum line.

There are also sweets that go easier on the teeth but must be regulated nonetheless. Sour candies like gummy worms and some hard candies are acidic and can break down dental enamel, but these stimulate salivary glands. Chocolate melts easily and causes little damage to the teeth; dark chocolate contains antioxidants that prevent tooth decay. However, caramels and toffee get stuck to the teeth.

While children are young and craving candy, dentists like Dr. Hicham Riba advise parents to exercise a careful eye when selecting what candy their children can have. At the same time, they must also encourage children to eat foods that they might not like. Sometimes, it is enough to tell them that “it is good for you.”


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