Moderation Versus Frequency

Moderation Versus Frequency
Posted on 03/10/2014

Written by:
3/10/2014 12:59 PM

Which is more important when it comes to cavity formation: Moderation or frequency? When I think of the two concepts, I think of moderation referring to the amount of something, and frequency referring to the timing of something. When I discuss with parents which foods they should and shouldn’t eat in regards to cavity formation, they often come to the conclusion that it is all about moderation. You can argue that the end result may be the same (eating less candy, less crackers, and less juice, for example). However, when it comes to cavity formation, frequency is much more important than moderation. But why? It all goes back to how cavities are formed. Cavities are formed when the bacteria process simple carbohydrates, and produce acid. The acid can only damage your teeth for the amount of time that the acid is on your teeth. Saliva takes about twenty minutes to neutralize this acid. The bacteria sitting on your teeth have trouble grabbing the sugar and storing it. Bacteria don’t have arms, legs, or refrigerators. Bacteria are lazy; they will only grab what is right in front of them. So, cavity formation really comes down to frequency, not the amount. Let me use an example to explain further. Assume you have two college students that love organic apple juice. Let’s pretend they have a side job and buy the cold-pressed apple juice that still has some fiber in it. (This is a fictional story). They both drink 32 ounces of organic apple juice a day. One drinks 32 ounces at breakfast. The other sips on his 32 ounces of apple juice for 5 hours. Just a few sips every 20 minutes. Whose teeth are in contact with the acid produced by bacteria for longer? The sipper, of course. Who will most likely get a ton of cavities? The sipper. The same is true for children. Which child is going to get more cavities? The child who drinks 8 ounces of milk at breakfast, or 8 ounces of milk over 5 hours? Unfortunately, even sipping on dairy, almond, soy, coconut, rice, or any milk you can think of all day, still has enough natural sugar for the bacteria to use it. So, frequency is the much more important concept to focus on if you want to prevent cavities. If two children can both have the exact same amount of something (milk, juice, etc.), but one will get cavities and one won’t because of frequency, then frequency definitely trumps moderation in regards to cavity formation. For example, my daughter may be getting a similar amount of sugar as another child, having a smoothie at breakfast, and ice cream after dinner, but it is not on her teeth for long, and water will rinse it away afterwards. Now, I am going to go chug down my caramel macchiato very rapidly...
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