Children’s Dental Health and Sugar
article by Raha Sepehrara
Pre-schoolers’ dental health has been all over the news in the past year. We are all aware of the effects on sugar. High profile public figures have been raising more awareness on these effects. Well known health issues connected with sugar are decayed teeth, increased likelihood of diabetes, obesity and hyperactivity.
Recent studies have shown that 5 year olds in Leicester have one of the highest rate of rotten teeth in the country. In my career, as well as seeing pre-schoolers with one or more decayed teeth, I have also seen 3-5 year olds requiring all their teeth removed under general anaesthetic, which has been quite an upsetting experience.
The best way to prevent rotten teeth is by
1 - Brushing regularly
- Teeth must be brushed twice daily for 2 minutes with a fluoride toothpaste correct for your child’s age and it should be under parents’ supervision
- Do not rinse out the mouth with water after brushing - spit out any excess instead so that the toothpaste and its helpful qualities can stay in the mouth for quite a bit longer than the brushing time.
2 - Maintaining a healthy diet with minimal or no sugary foods or drinks
- Eat a diet with fruits and vegetables (but be aware that some fruits are acidic so keep an eye on frequency)
- Try to keep consumption of sugary drinks and snacks as low as possible, and if they are consumed, try to have them with a meal rather than in-between.
- Avoid fruit juices, as they can damage teeth.
- If offering sweet drinks or foods, please keep to a minimum and do not have them as a daily occurrence.
3 - Regular visits to the dentist
JUICE AND HIDDEN SUGARS IN DRINK AND FOOD
The recommended daily amount of sugar for a pre-schooler is approximately 19g approximately (5 sugar cubes) and for children aged 7 to 10 years old the amount is 24g (6 sugar cubes). There are so many hidden sugars in our daily foods and drinks making it very easy to exceed their RDA. We mustn’t forget that juices especially orange and apple are highly acidic as they have a pH of about 3 and this will contribute to tooth wear and erosion of the enamel of their teeth. All these factors added to daily exposure to juices will significantly increase the likelihood of the children developing decay. It is also well established that ready availability of juice to 3-5 year old children will lead to them growing a preference for such drinks over milk or water, setting them for life to favour sugary drinks and consume them more frequently. Our advise is look at the sugar content of cereals, cereal bars, biscuits, cakes and juices so that sugar consumption can be limited and avoid exposure to juice at an early age.
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