THIS Affects More Than 60 Percent of School-Age Kids...

Mary Poppins may have had the wrong idea when she sang, "a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down." Consuming too much sugar (especially whole spoonfuls!) can mean a one-way ticket to the dentist's chair—and unfortunately, hardly anyone escapes it, new research shows.

According to a new study published in the journal BMC Public Health, sugar is the lone culprit when it comes to causing tooth decay, which is actually classified as a chronic disease. And almost everyone in the U.S. is affected by it: 60 to 90 percent of school-age children have experienced tooth decay, and adults are even worse—92 percent of people ages 20 to 64 have experienced tooth decay in at least one of their teeth, TIME reports.

Besides over-consumption of things like soda, fruit beverages, and dessert items, sugar often hides in many pre-packaged and restaurant foods you would never expect.

"We need to make sure that use of fruit juices and the concept of sugar-containing treats for children are not only no longer promoted, but explicitly seen as unhelpful. Food provided at nurseries and schools should have a maximum of free sugars in the complete range of foods amounting to no more than 2.5% of energy.

"Vending machines offering confectionary and sugary drinks in areas controlled or supported financially by local or central government should be removed. We are not talking draconian policies to 'ban' such sugar-rich products, which are available elsewhere, but no publicly-supported establishment should be contributing to the expensive problems of dental caries, obesity and diabetes."

The World Health Organization recently decreased its recommended sugar intake from 10 percent to 5 percent of a person's daily caloric consumption, the BBC reports. But this study's authors recommend no more than 3 percent.

Several Parents editors, inspired by Eve Schaub's book "Year of No Sugar," tried a day of no sugar a few months ago. Could you and your family do it?

Even if she's still all gums, you can take steps to keeping her heart-melting smile healthy. Use these tips when brushing baby's teeth.

Photo of sugar courtesy of Shutterstock.

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