Love your teeth, rethink your drink

February brings Valentine’s Day, which brings an opportunity for kids to eat sweet treats. You don’t have to throw out all the chocolates in that heart-shaped box, but February is also National Children’s Dental Health Month, and dentists urge moderation.

The American Dental Association sponsors the annual month-long spotlight on children’s oral hygiene.

Cavities are one of the most common chronic childhood diseases in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in five children (20%) in the 5- to 11-year-old age range have one or more untreated cavities, which can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems eating, speaking, playing, and learning.

Children who have poor oral health often miss more school and have lower grades.

According to Dr. Tom Olson, a local dentist, cutting down on such sugary beverages as soda, energy drinks, and juices is a great way to protect children’s teeth. “Soft drinks have lots of sugar,” he said. “The germs that can cause cavities take that sugar and turn it into acid, and acid eats away your teeth and causes holes or cavities.”

Dr. Olson said the best drink choice for a healthy mouth is water. Rethinking your drink and substituting water for some of those sugary beverages is a healthy choice for not only your teeth but also your entire body. Drinking Louisville Pure Tap™, fresh from the faucet, is a great tasting, inexpensive way to help maintain great oral health. For about a penny a day, you can fill several dozen glasses of water!

Foods we eat also may contain lots of sugar, especially such processed foods as cereal and chips.  According to Dr. Priscilla Bond, sugar helps plaque grow on your teeth and gum line. Plaque can cause cavities, but brushing daily with Pure Tap™ helps prevent that buildup.
“When we brush our teeth, we remove the sugar that we eat,” she said, “and we also remove the plaque that accumulates in the course of the day.”

One problem when trying to cut back on sugar is not knowing exactly how much of the stuff is in the foods and drinks we buy. There’s a simple way to find out. Most things we consume have a nutrition label on the package. Look for the amount of sugar, which is usually listed in grams. Four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon. So if something you buy has, say, 40 grams of sugar, you can divide by four and you’ll find that it equals 10 teaspoons.

We only have one set of permanent teeth, and we need to take care of them. To learn more about how good nutrition helps create a great smile, visit the Smile Kentucky! website.

Louisville Water Company created Smile Kentucky! in 2002. Bringing together health, dental, and business partners, the program works to improve children’s oral health.