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Gummy Vitamins and Pediatric Patients

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Emma J. Guzman, University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine 

 

Getting children to eat healthy and be aware of their health is often a difficult task. Ensuring that they eat their fruits, vegetables, brush their teeth, take their baths and get their vitamins is not that easy.  The start of gummy vitamins, which came to market about 30 years ago, has made at least one of those tasks easier. Gummy vitamins taste similar to gummy candies with the added benefits of containing vitamins. This is great, if we don’t think about the dental implications. 

Gummy vitamins are essentially vitamin-enhanced candy. The gummies, which are thought to be healthy because they contain vitamins, are a variation of a mixture of sugar, starch, food coloring, citric acid and gelatin.  Besides the “health” factors of containing vitamins these supplements have the same dental implications are any old gummy candy.  

There are three major issues with gummy vitamins that can effect dentition.  The ingredient of citric acid in gummy vitamins is problematic because it is an acid. Citric acid is contained in certain fruits, vegetables and is used as a preservative. Acids are an issue because they break down the enamel, the enamel in primary teeth is softer than permanent teeth and more susceptible to erosion form acidic foods. The acidity in combination with the sugar content of gummy vitamins is the prime environment for caries formation. Most gummy vitamins contain some type of sugar to make it sweet and appealing to children.  That sugar feeds the bacteria that is now working on the acid weakened tooth.  The last and most problematic factor is the “gummy” of gummy vitamins. These vitamins are sticky and cling to teeth. Rinsing and saliva does not get rid of the small pieces that get in the interproximal region, in the grooves and fissures. The gummy vitamins sticking to teeth for long periods of time allows the acid, sugar and bacteria to cause damage.  

Changes can be made to reduce the risk of a child getting caries due to gummy vitamins. One major change could be switching to non-gummy chewable vitamins. The vitamins should be given during meals and not in between. During a meal the saliva content is high so that gives the saliva a better chance of getting rid of any residue. Another importance in given vitamins during a meal is not constantly changing the pH of the oral environment by giving anything with sugar in between meals. This goes for anything that contains sugar, juice, a dessert, etc.  Emphasizing oral hygiene is always going to be beneficial.  Brushing and flossing those gummy particles out will prevent them from doing the damage they do when they sit in the oral cavity and wreak havoc.