Bush: Caring for your child's teeth

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Recently the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) held a national contest with everyday people asking them to send them their most creative, inspiring videos pouring out sugary beverages and making the case for cutting back.

The winning video "Just Pour One Out" features an original rap song from the Sullivan family of Nashville, inspired by 41-year-old stay-at-home dad Peter Sullivan's personal struggle with soda consumption. "I was surprised by how much the process changed my drinking habits," Sullivan said of making the film.  It is really worth searching YouTube to see it and share with kids.

Tooth decay affects children more than any other chronic infectious disease. Untreated tooth decay causes pain and infections that may lead to many other problems. The good news is that tooth decay and other oral diseases that can affect children are preventable. Developing good habits at an early age helps children get a good start on a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.

Now more than ever, kids are faced with a large array of food choices. Their choices range from fresh fruits and vegetables to sugary and processed foods. What children eat not only affects their general health but also their oral health.

Children are consuming foods and drinks high in sugar more often and in larger portions than ever before. If a person drinks one soda a day for a year, that person is consuming approximately 55 pounds of sugar and half of all children consumer at least one soda per day. When sugar is consumed over and over again in large amounts, the harmful effect on teeth can be vast. Sugar on teeth provides food for bacteria, the bacteria then produces acid and this acid in turn can eat away the enamel on teeth.

Sugar cannot and should not be completely avoided. Many foods with sugar also have important nutrients that need to be consumed. The best way to know if the food you are eating has sugar is to read the food label. The American Heart Association recommends that the average child should consume less than 24 grams of sugar per day.

Here are some tips for reducing your children risk for tooth decay:
If your children chew gum, make it sugarless.
Monitor beverage consumption -children should consume water and milk more than sodas.
Help children develop good brushing and flossing habits.
Schedule regular dental visits.

For more information, contact your UT Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Carla Y. Bush at cybush@utk.edu or go to our website at utextension.tennessee.edu/cannon

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