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Let’s Talk Sugar with Dr. Adena Borodkin of Golden Valley Kids Pediatric Dentistry in Minneapolis, MN

The holiday seasons are about to descend upon us! Halloween is later this month and with all the fun festivities most Americans are consuming more sugar than they do at other times of the year. So, we wanted to talk about sugar. We definitely know there’s a link between sugar consumption and cavities, but let’s also look at the big picture of sugar and how it affects oral health.

This summer, NPR covered a story on how “Sugar Rules the World and Ruins Teeth.” Cavities are a real epidemic worldwide. Did you know that cavities are the most prevalent chronic disease in children in the US? It’s even more common than asthma! In the Philippines, almost 95% of 12-year-olds have cavities. In India, 70% of kids have cavities, one-third of Tanzanian teens have cavities, and so do one in three Brazilians. So what’s to blame? Sugar!

The bacteria that cause cavities, Streptococcus mutans, love sugar. The more you eat of it, the more they grow and the more acid they produce as a byproduct. By limiting your consumption of carbohydrates (sugars), you’ll limit the number of cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth and be much less likely to develop tooth decay.

Here at Golden Valley Kids Pediatric Dentistry, we believe that prevention of cavities is key! We like to spend time with you talking about prevention strategies because it is much easier to prevent a cavity than to fix it. And a huge part of any prevention plan is diet coupled with excellent oral hygiene.

Our diets have changed dramatically over the last few generations. We now consume more highly processed foods as socioeconomic conditions evolve, and we are eating less plant-and meat-based foods. This trend at work is most alarming in developing countries. Big Sugar (large corporations that profit from sugar) spends a lot of money on marketing their sugar filled products worldwide. For example, Coca-Cola will spend $12 billion dollars on marketing in Africa alone by 2020.

Another disturbing trend is that these Big Sugar companies have their hands in the dental industry too. The European Organization for Caries Research (ORCA) is supported by Mars Wrigley Confectionery and the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) is supported by Unilever. Conflicts of interest such as these can impact the results of the research and the policies of organizations.

This is just some food for thought! We enjoy eating sugar from time to time too, but it’s important to be aware of what it does to our teeth and our bodies, especially with Halloween right around the corner. An easy way to improve our diets is to reduce processed food consumption. A good rule of thumb for kids is that healthy foods have fewer than 5 ingredients and don’t contain things that we cannot pronounce. It’s helpful to keep this in mind when choosing a snack. Next time you’re in the office, ask us for our Healthy Snack Idea List. It will help you pack as many nutrients into snack time as possible.

Are you attending any Halloween events in Golden Valley this month? Where are your favorite neighborhoods for looking at holiday decorations in Minnesota? If you’d like to offer a candy alternative to your trick-or-treaters this year, here are some ideas!

  1. Glow sticks. – this package contains 400+ pieces to keep the kids entertained all night!
  2. Lip whistles. Not recommended for the noise intolerant parents…  Ha!
  3. Popcorn. Perfect for those crunchy food cravings, and a healthier option! These are my favorite healthy popcorn alternatives. Have popcorn kernels laying around the house? Try this healthy popcorn recipe. Bag it all up in festive halloween baggies!
  4. Jack-o-lantern bubbles! Bubbles can be fun all year round!
  5. Mandarin oranges with pumpkin faces! Healthy and still fun for the kids
  6. Vampire fangs, I always loved these as a kid!
  7. Halloween finger puppets!
  8. Goodie bags with stamps and stickers! This set comes with everything you could possibly need to make the best goodie bags!
  9. Halloween themed bouncy balls – bonus! These bouncy balls glow in the dark!