Home and Community Safety & Health Wellness Nutrition Older adults Articles mentioned in FSH Instagram posts

Food is love? Grandparents’ treats may contribute to kids’ cavities


Photo: Martinan/iStockphoto

It’s common for doting grandparents to offer candy and other sweet treats to their grandkids. But experts caution that this sign of love can put kids on a path for tooth decay – and many parents are reluctant to broach the subject.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, West Virginia University and the University of Michigan recruited 126 mothers for a two-year study. The goal: to explore factors that prompted the mothers to talk with their children’s grandparents about giving the children foods and drinks with excessive amounts of sugar.

Although 72% of the mothers said that their children’s grandparents give them sugary foods and beverages, only about half (51%) talked about it with the grandparents. Factors that influenced whether the mothers had this conversation included:

  • Frequency of child-grandparent interactions
  • Dependency on grandparents for child care
  • Quantity of sugary foods and beverages provided to children
  • Strength of relationship between the mothers and the grandparents

The study was published online in the Journal of the American Dental Association.

According to the ADA, the more often children eat and drink sugary sweets and beverages, the greater their risk for tooth decay. In January, the association commissioned a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. parents of children 17 and younger. Around two-thirds (68%) believe their kids get more sugary foods and drinks from their grandparents’ home than from their own home. 

Seventy-three percent said they’d address the issue with their own parents but not their partner’s parents. Only about a third of the parents would address both sets of 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,” ADA spokesperson Genaro Romo, a Chicago-based dentist, said in a press 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.”

The ADA recommends that children brush their teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, floss daily, see a dentist regularly, and limit sugary foods and drinks.

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)