Written by Hillary Bennetts

What the Heck Are Sugar Bugs on Teeth and How Can Y'all Avoid Them?

What the Heck Are Sugar Bugs on Teeth and How Can Y'all Avoid Them?
Estimated time to read 4 minutes

What the heck is a sugar bug?

“Sugar bugs” is basically a nickname for bacteria in the mouth that produce small areas of sticky plaque on the teeth, leading to cavity formation. These bacteria feed off of sugary, starchy, or processed foods which the bacteria change into enamel-eating acid.

We know, there's enough to think about when raising kids, so we don't mean to put one more on your plate. We just like to share information like this as part of our commitment to keeping kids healthy, so do with it what you will. We're here to help by arming you with info about sugar bugs - what causes them and how to avoid them.

This blog post will give you the scoop to help you establish good oral hygiene and cavity prevention, to help keep those pearly whites sparkling.

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What Are Sugar Bugs and How Do They Form?

Sugar bugs are bacteria that feed on the sugars in the mouth, including those found in candy, fruit, and even other starchy foods like rice and bread. Over time, these bacteria can form a sticky film called plaque. If plaque isn't removed, it can harden into tartar, which can damage teeth and cause cavities.

Children are particularly susceptible to nasty sugar bugs because they tend to prefer sugary foods and may not brush their teeth as often or as thoroughly as adults.

How Can You Prevent Sugar Bugs On Your Kids' Teeth?

Below is a list of several ways to help prevent sugar bugs on your child's teeth. If this list feels overwhelming, know that you can start with one and change your habits slowly. You don't have to tackle these tips all at once!

  1. Avoid or limit sugary and starchy foods

    The best way to prevent sugar bugs? Avoid or limit the foods that cause them! Of course, that's often easier said than done, especially with little ones, but it's an important reminder. The less exposure your little one has to sugary and starchy foods, the less likely they are to develop sugar bugs, causing cavities.

  2. Replace candy and starches with healthier alternatives

    Finding swaps for sugary foods and starches can help make the limitation of sweet foods a bit more manageable. Meat, eggs, fish, nuts, seeds, and other healthy protein, fats, and veggies are all great options.

  3. Foster and model good brushing and flossing habits

    Be a good role model for oral health. Make it a fun routine for your kids to brush their teeth twice daily and join them in on the fun so that they can see you taking care of your teeth too.

  4. Teach your kids how important it is to drink water, especially after meals and snacks

    Water is great for many reasons, including in helping to rinse food residue off of teeth when brushing isn't immediately available or practical. Water is also always preferred to juice, for reasons beyond dental health.

  5. Talk about sugar bugs with your children

    Give your kid some context. If they understand the “why” behind your food choices and brushing habits, they'll be more likely to cooperate than if they're just forced to follow a rule that otherwise feels arbitrary.

  6. Schedule regular pediatric dentist appointments for your children

    A pediatric dentist will not only check on dental health, they will also help to educate and share good habits with your kids. They also provide some accountability to keep up with oral hygiene.

Help! My Kid Ate Everything in Their Halloween Candy Bag - What Can I Do?

It's inevitable, there will be a time when your kid eats more sugar or starches than you want. Here's how to handle getting rid of the sugar residue on teeth: 

  1. Drink water after eating

    Drinking water after eating sugar can help to remove some of the surface sugar from the mouth before you do a thorough brushing.

  2. Brush teeth 30 minutes after eating sugar

    Brushing too soon after eating sugar can damage tooth enamel, so do a quick rinse with water just after eating and then wait about 30 minutes and do a thorough brushing and flossing. Give little ones the first try, but be sure to help kids who are still learning by "checking" their work with one final pass.

  3. Move on

    Don't dwell on it or make a big deal in front of your child. Just explain why you want to be sure to brush and then move on with a well-rounded next meal that contains plenty of protein (to help balance the blood sugar).


We all know that excessive amounts of sugar can be harmful to health, but the truth is, it can be damaging to teeth too. With celebrations and holidays, it's pretty tough to COMPLETELY avoid sugar in your kids' lives, so we hope these tips to help prevent cavities and sugar bugs on teeth are useful and empowering! 

Have a new baby and wondering when to start brushing their teeth? Read this blog! Check out also this blog and this blog!

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