Many parents may offer their children sugar-free foods as an alternative to heavily sweetened snacks. These foods can result in a range of oral health problems, including bad breath, cavities and gum disease.
However, sugar-free products may not necessarily be any better for children's oral health. These foods and drinks are often highly acidic and can weaken tooth enamel. Parents who are looking for a snack alternative that is more friendly to their children's oral health, may want to pay close attention to the acidity of foods.
"People look at products that have 'sugar-free' on the label and think they are good for your teeth," Brad Schmitt, a spokesperson for Australian consumer advocate group Choice, told the Sydney Morning Herald. "What they don't realize is that these products in some cases are just as bad."
Schmitt's organization recently tested 85 different processed foods and drinks and found that fruit snacks and juices tend to have the highest levels of acidity, according to the news source. Processed orange juices were among the worst offenders.
Acidic foods can damage oral health and contribute to bad breath because they soften tooth enamel. This can make teeth more vulnerable to bacterial infection. Once this happens, teeth begin to rot, giving off an unpleasant odor.
These foods and drinks can also dry out the mouth. Saliva helps to kill bacteria, so a dry mouth is more likely to be vulnerable to infections from harmful microbes. This could lead to significant bad breath problems.
Parents who are concerned about their child's oral health should consider cutting out acidic foods from their family's diet. Incorporating more healthy alternatives, like fresh fruits and vegetables, may make transitioning away from processed foods an easier adjustment.
Greater attention to oral hygiene may also benefit children who consume acidic foods. Daily brushing, flossing and use of mouthwash may be able to kill some of the bacteria that has taken hold in their mouths and is contributing to bad breath.
If this fails, parents may find it necessary to turn to specialty breath-freshening products. Some of these are intended to help people with dry-mouth, while others are more effective bacteria-killers. Moms and dads whose children eat many acidic foods may benefit from making some of these lifestyle adjustments to improve their kid's oral health and decrease their chances of developing bad breath.