CHICAGO — Being a parent means having to tell your child “NO!” on numerous occasions each day. Perhaps that’s why grandma and grandpa just can’t help but say “Yes!” to sugary treats. Researchers with the American Dental Association find that more than two-thirds (72%) of surveyed mothers claim that grandparents spoil their young children with sugary foods and drinks.
The moms also reported that grandparents usually either feed their kids “large amounts” of cariogenic (cavity causing) foods and beverages or fail to limit their grandchildren’s consumption of these treats. Examples of sugary food items include sodas, juices, baked goods, and candy. These findings come from research conducted by the University of Pittsburgh, West Virginia University, and the University of Michigan. This in-person, two-year study included 126 mothers, and examined which factors influenced mothers to finally talk with grandparents about giving their kids so many sugary foods and drinks.
Notably, while 72 percent say their children’s grandparents spoil them with sugary treats. However, only slightly more than half (51%) actually decided to address the topic with the grandparents. A number of factors influenced whether or not a mom engaged in such a discussion:
- The frequency by which the grandparents and children saw each other.
- The mothers’ dependency on grandparents for childcare.
- The quantity of sugary foods and beverages being allowed/provided by grandparents.
- The overall strength of the relationship between mothers and their children’s grandparents.
“I have many happy memories of raiding the candy jar at my own grandparents’ house, and as a parent, I’ve hesitated with some of these talks myself,” says ADA spokesperson Dr. Genaro Romo, a Chicago-based dentist, in a media release. “Yet, cavities are the most common chronic childhood disease and can cause undue pain, as well as issues with speaking, eating, playing and learning. Over time, in addition to dental health concerns, a diet with excess added sugars puts kids at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, and obesity, among other health concerns.”
Here’s why sugar is so bad for oral health
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the more a child eats sugary treats and drinks daily, the greater their risk of tooth decay. Oral bacteria feeds on sugar producing acid that attacks and weakens tooth enamel.
Additionally, the ADA also conducted a separate survey in January 2023 featuring 1,002 U.S. parents of children 17 years-old or younger with the help of a consumer research firm. The results of that poll indicate that over two-thirds of parents (68%) believe their children eat more sugary foods and beverages with their grandparents than at home.
- Seventy-three percent say they are willing to speak with their own parents but not their partner’s parents.
- Less than half (43%) say they would address their partner’s parents.
- Only a third of parents (34%) confirm they would confront both their parents and their partner’s parents.
“There is nothing sweeter than the relationship between children and grandparents,” adds ADA spokesperson Dr. Mary Hayes, a pediatric dentist. “Have the ‘treats in moderation’ conversation, encourage water or milk versus juice or soda, and if offering a treat, opt for plain chocolate because saliva washes it out of the mouth more easily than sticky or hard candies.”
The ADA recommends that children brush their teeth twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste, floss on a daily basis, and visit a dentist regularly. Oh, and cutting down on sugary foods is always a good idea!
The study is published in The Journal of the American Dental Association.