When I was a child, chalky chewable vitamins were the thing. I remember Flintstone vitamins and Sunkist Vitamin C chewables fondly. Sometimes, I would eat more than one because they tasted so good, but never more than three or four! I’d probably heard somewhere that you could overdose on vitamins so I didn’t want to test my luck.
These days, gummy vitamins are what kids (and adults!) seem to want. Parents buy them on their own accord or perhaps at the recommendation of a physician. They’ve got a lot of great flavors out there and it makes taking vitamins fun. My point here isn’t to discuss whether or not your child should be supplementing his/her diet with vitamins. That’s a topic for parents and the child’s physician.
My concern is over two key ingredients: sugar and gelatin. Sugar, in whatever form it says on the package, whether it is sucrose, glucose, evaporated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, is all about the same when it comes to damaging your teeth and increasing your risk for dental decay. Most people understand and are aware of that relationship.
Gelatin is the kicker. When you eat something sugary, the sugar stays on your teeth for a little while, but your saliva, tongue, cheeks, and other teeth eventually help to wash it away. Gelatin is sticky and helps prevent all of those things from happening. Gelatin allows the sugar to stick to the teeth for longer, prolonging the exposure to your teeth and increasing your chance for developing tooth decay. As an aside, if you ever Google how gelatin is made, you might not want to ever put it in your body again.
So you give your children gummy vitamins, they love them, and there’s no turning back. So what do you do? My recommendation is to have your child take the vitamin BEFORE it is time to brush teeth. I’ve informally surveyed several patients and parents, and I’ve found that many children take a gummy vitamin AFTER brushing teeth. This way of doing things nearly defeats the purpose of brushing, so consider changing the habit!
If your child is taking vitamins, please supervise them! Vitamins aren’t candy, even though they taste like it. Have your child take their vitamins some time before they brush their teeth, so that the sugar doesn’t stick to their teeth all night or all morning. For adults taking gummy vitamins, consider taking regular vitamins or a sugar free alternative.