Managing that Smile!

Sugar really does affect the teeth!
A smile means so much and has the ability to make a child happy and confident. However this is so often not the case.

According to public health England ‘a quarter of 5 year olds (24.7%) have tooth decay’ and ‘between 2014 and 2015 63,000 children aged between 0 – 19 were admitted to hospital for teeth extractions.’

Parents and childcare providers have the responsibility to look after their children’s teeth. A combination of bad oral hygiene and diet is responsible for children suffering unnecessary pain and discomfort. This is difficult to avoid as advertising and marketing tempt children to eat foods that are full of sugar and extra calories. However children are young, it is adults who hold the purse strings and who ultimately make the purchasing decisions.

Bad habits are easy to get into. Often these occur while trying to do good. For example, if a child is finding it difficult to get to sleep, a bottle of milk is left in the cot to soothe them and encourage sleep. However the last thing a child should see before they go to bed should be a toothbrush! Milk contains sugar which is then sits on the teeth all night, encouraging bacteria to grow, damaging enamel and resulting in tooth decay. Sometimes toddlers are given juice, leading to the same effect.

Water is the best drink to offer your child, rather than squash, fruit-shoots, flavoured water or fruit juices. All of these drinks have sugar that attack your children’s teeth and contain extra calories. Water is free and easily available, so why get into the habit of giving anything else?

It is really important to get into a teeth-brushing routine. This will help when either child or parent is tired, helping them remind each other that brushing must be done. Cleaning your children’s teeth should not be seen as a chore but as an important part of the day. Fluoride toothpaste should be used and children should be helped to clean their teeth up until the age of 7. A visit to the dentist should be made as soon as possible after the first tooth has arrived and regularly after that.

Understanding what happens in the mouth is really useful in understanding why it so important to be careful what we eat. The mouth is full of bacteria, some good and some bad. The bad bacteria mixes with sugar and makes acid. It is the acid that then eats away at the teeth, breaking away the enamel and making holes that will need to filled by the dentist.

SUGARS + BACTERIA = ACIDS ACIDS + TEETH = TOOTH DECAY

During a meal, saliva is made to help to digest the food, and it also helps to get rid of excess food and acid on the teeth. If a sugary food is going to be eaten it is a good idea to have it whilst you are having a meal as saliva will be present to get rid of acid.

Grazing or snacking on sugary foods is the worst thing you can do for your teeth as they will be bathed in a sugary coating all day, making the mouth a perfect haven for bacteria and hence acid. Drinking water helps deal with this as it rinses the mouth and increases the production of saliva.

Natural sugars are just as harmful as added sugars.

Examples of foods containing large quantities of sugar are:

  • Dried fruit is often seen as healthy but is high in sugar and acidic
  • Fruit itself is high in sugar
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Squashes
  • Fruit juices
  • Smoothies
  • Low fat products such as yoghurts
  • Tomato ketchup
  • Cereal bars

So to help your child not be one of the statistics mentioned at the start, take heed of the advice in this article! Watch the sugary drinks and snacks, encourage your child to drink water. Do all these things yourself too since children learn by example.

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