Is Honey Good for My Child’s Teeth?

Aerial view of a ridged honey ladle in a small dish filled with yellow honey on a teal counter

Due to honey’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits, it has been used to treat infected wounds since 3000 BC, and it can soothe sore throats and coughs when taken orally. Most children love the sweet taste of honey, but is it good for your kid’s teeth?

Honey & Cavities

First of all, you should never feed honey to children younger than 12 months because it can contain the bacteria that causes infant botulism, which can be fatal. But for adults and kids over 1 year old, some studies have shown that honey may be effective at preventing cavities under certain conditions.

One study revealed that Manuka honey—which is native to New Zealand—inhibits the growth of cavity-causing plaque as effectively as chlorhexidine mouthwash, a prescription rinse frequently used after oral surgery. But the oral health benefits of honey have relied on subjects applying it directly to teeth and gums in a specified manner under controlled laboratory conditions. Thus, with the right type, properly diluted and applied correctly, you might get beneficial results. But don’t expect to prevent cavities or gum disease just by casually eating honey—especially if it’s the ordinary variety at the grocery store, since the antimicrobial potency varies greatly depending on the type of honey.

Honey as an Alternative Sweetener

Tooth decay is caused by enamel-destroying acid produced by the combination of bacteria and sugar. Honey is mostly sugar and therefore can still lead to cavities. Although honey does take longer to be broken down than regular table sugar, it tends to linger on teeth longer than ordinary sugar due to its stickiness. So, as with all sugar, please encourage your family to consume honey only in moderation.

Other Sugar Alternatives

Sugar-free sweeteners can be found in a variety of foods, beverages, candies, and chewing gums. Look for ways to incorporate into your diet sugar-free sweeteners that pose no risk of cavities!

The FDA has approved saccharin (Sweet and Low®, Sweet Twin®®®), aspartame (Nutrasweet®, Equal® & Sugar Twin®), acesulfame potassium (Sweet One® & Sunett®), neotame (Newtame®), stevia (Truvia®, PureVia® & Enliten®), advantame, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, mannitol, erythritol, and maltitol.

Schedule Your Child’s Biannual Checkup Today!

Regardless of what sugar substitute you and your kids prefer, there’s no substitute for good oral hygiene and regular professional dental care. If you or your children are overdue for a checkup, contact us today to set up an appointment with Dr. Sullivan!