It can be hard to get kids to eat healthy meals every day, or even to do it yourself all of the time. If you’re like most parents, you have a busy schedule that doesn’t always allow time to cook every meal from scratch—sometimes convenience food or pizza delivery is the only reasonable option. You may also have a picky eater in your house—plenty of kids and adults have difficulty with certain tastes or textures, and this can put a variety of foods off-limits.
However, you still want to make sure that you get all the nutrients you and your kids need every day. This is where gummy vitamins come in for many families. The gummy varieties are easy and convenient for kids or adults who may have trouble swallowing pills. But could they be hurting your teeth?
Gummy vitamins taste good because they’re full of sugar.
Have you ever tried to chew a regular multi-vitamin, the kind that aren’t intended to be chewable? If so, you know that it’s not a very pleasant experience. The vitamins may be good for you, but they certainly don’t taste good. In order to make chewable and gummy vitamins palatable, the manufacturers add sugar, sometimes in very high quantities.
Of course, there are sugar-free varieties too, but you still have to be careful with these. Even the sugar-free varieties often contain citric acid for flavoring. The reason that sugar causes cavities is that the bacteria in your mouth converts the sugar to acid, and the acid wears down your tooth enamel, causing decay. When you eat foods containing acids, there’s no need to wait for the bacteria—the acid can just immediately start attacking your tooth enamel.
Of course, you’re usually only supposed to eat one vitamin a day. You can rationalize that even vitamins with a high sugar content don’t amount to much compared to many of the other things that you might drink or eat. Even one glass of juice or soda probably has more sugar and acid than one small gummy vitamin. So is it really something that you need to worry about, as long as you’re brushing your teeth regularly?
What you have to realize is that not only do gummy vitamins have a high sugar or acid content, they’re also sticky. This matters, because unlike juice or soda, particles of the gummy can get stuck to your teeth, and they can’t be easily washed away by the saliva in your mouth. If you take a gummy before bed, but after brushing your teeth, that sticky residue has all night to do its worst.
What Not To Do
If gummy vitamins are the only kind that you or your child can tolerate, then it’s important to be careful when you take them.
Do NOT take them right before bed or on your way out the door to school or work—it leaves the residue on your teeth for too long.
What to Do
So, what’s the solution? If you or your child can swallow pills, it’s best to take non-chewable vitamins. It’s not as tasty, but it eliminates the risk of problems with your teeth. If chewable vitamins are necessary, try the powdery type of chewables instead of the gummies.
It’s better for kids to chew on their vitamins while they’re eating other foods and drinking water—the gummies are less likely to stick to their teeth.
Take the vitamins during a time of day when you can brush and floss your teeth shortly after.
It’s important to discuss your diet and the supplements you take with your dentist, so that the dentist can help you avoid choices that can lead to cavities.
Always Remember to Practice Good Dental Hygiene
No matter what your children eat, brushing and flossing should be something they do twice a day and ideally after each meal. But particularly if you are giving them sticky, sugary gummies every day, you need to make sure they are following the dentist’s orders. Use a toothpaste that prevents cavities and a soft toothbrush and make sure to also gently floss if your child will allow. And make sure to take your children to the dentist regularly for their checkups!
Of course, if your kids will gleefully eat their vegetables, fruits, and other healthy foods without sneaking some of them to the dog, you might not need to give them gummy vitamins. But for the rest of us, it’s good to know that as long as we follow the above guidelines, we can depend upon those guilt-absolving gummy bears to do their thing…without worrying about a mouth full of fillings!