Originally published: April 2023
April is Oral Health month in Canada. It’s a great time to brush up on what it means for your teen to have a healthy mouth. This year’s theme is sugar intake and oral health. It encourages teens to learn about sugar and make informed choices for good oral health and overall health.
This April, help your teen protect their teeth! Try these tips to limit sugar and avoid tooth decay (cavities):
Talk with your teen about sugar and oral health
Sugary food and drinks increase your risk of tooth decay. Explain to your teen that bacteria in our mouths break down the sugar we eat and make acids that dissolve the surface of our teeth (enamel). This can lead to tooth decay. The good news is that when we eat and drink less sugar, we lower the risk of tooth decay.
Teach your teen to spot sugar
Show your teen how to identify sugar on a product ingredient list. Words ending in “ose” (like sucrose or fructose), or words such as syrup, honey, molasses, fruit juice, and puree concentrate are sugar products. When these words appear near the beginning of the list, the food or drink is higher in sugar. Support your teen to choose snacks and drinks without these ingredients.
Consider limits on sugary drinks
Teens can be big consumers when it comes to sugary drinks like pop, iced tea, chocolate milk, sports drinks, energy drinks, specialty coffees, and slushy frozen drinks. Talk with your teen about cutting back or cutting out sugary drinks. As a family, try setting a goal you can work towards together.
Keep low-sugar snacks on hand
Have tooth-healthy snacks in the fridge or pantry so teens can grab them on the go. Try whole fruits, raw vegetables, cheese cubes, hard-boiled eggs, plain yogurt, nuts, or seeds.
Put away the sugar bowl
Encourage your teen to avoid adding sugar to their food before they eat it. Here are some tasty, nutritious ways to swap out sugar:
- Top plain oatmeal with berries.
- Eat vegetables and fruits in their natural form, without sweetened dips or sauces.
- Replace syrup with unsweetened apple sauce or plain yogurt.
Make water your teen's go-to drink
Try these tips to encourage your teen to drink water throughout the day:
- Serve water with all meals and snacks.
- Encourage your teen to keep a reusable water bottle with them at school.
- Remind them that water is the best way to quench thirst during physical activity or when it’s hot outside—encourage them to skip sugary sport drinks and energy drinks.
- Replace sugary drinks with water.
Ask your dental professional about sugar and oral health
Limiting sugar is an important way to protect your teen from getting tooth decay.
Book regular appointments for your teen to see a dentist, dental hygienist, or other dental professional. Ask them for advice on keeping teeth healthy.
If your family needs help covering the costs of dental visits, go to ahs.ca/oralhealth.
For more information, go to: