As reports suggest that rates of tooth decay are worryingly high among three year olds, parents are being urged to take steps to promote good oral health and keep dental disease at bay. Tooth decay is almost always preventable and there are some very easy ways of reducing the risk of a child developing cavities. Diet is extremely important and experts have attributed the high rates of decay to increased levels of sugar consumption among children. Here are some useful tips for protecting your child against decay and damage caused by sugar:
Keep an eye on sugar consumption
Sugar is present in most foods, but some foods are much more sugary than others and it’s always worth checking labels and reading the nutritional information to check the sugar content. Many foods are now marked with the traffic light stickers, which make it easier to determine the sugar content. Look out for foods, which may seem healthy, such as juices, ready meals and smoothies, as they can actually contain a lot of sugar.
Limit sugar intake
Most kids enjoy a bag of sweets or a chocolate bar, but really these should be treats, rather than forming part of a staple diet. Sugar not only increases the risk of dental cavities, but is also increases the risk of obesity and can contribute to peaks and troughs in blood sugar levels and behavioural issues. Low sugar foods contain less than 5mg of sugar per 100g; high sugar foods contain more than 22.5mg. Ideally, added sugars should not account for more than 10% of your daily calorie intake, which for a child equates to no more than 50g of sugar per day.
Fizzy drinks, cordial, smoothies and fruit juice can all be packed with sugars, so take extra care when choosing your child’s drinks. If your child is a fan of fizzy drinks, try diluting sugar-free cordial with sparkling water instead of buying cans of pop. Dilute fruit juice with water to reduce the acidity and sugar content and encourage children to drink water on a regular basis. Milk is another good choice for children because it is an excellent source of calcium, which helps to build strong teeth and bones.
Go for wholegrain cereals
Breakfast is a really important meal for children, as it sets them up for the day. Some breakfast cereals contain a lot of sugar, so try to opt for wholegrain cereals, which contain less sugar and more fibre; these cereals also release energy slowly over a long period of time, so they will enable children to concentrate for longer and prevent them from getting hungry between meals.
Look for healthier treat options
Most of the foods children are given as treats contain a large amount of sugar, so try to search for healthier options. Swap ice creams for frozen yoghurt, or a currant bun or slice of malt loaf for cakes and biscuits.
Encourage good oral hygiene
Good oral hygiene will help to reduce the threat of harmful bacteria in the mouth and prevent plaque formation. Try to encourage good habits from a very early age and supervise brushing to make sure that children brush for 2 minutes twice a day. Set a good example and brush along with your children. If you have eaten, wait an hour before brushing, as this will help to prevent damage to the enamel.
Keep up to date with dental visits
It’s really important for children to see a dentist on a regular basis, so make sure you keep up to date with dental checks. Ideally, children should go to the dentist every 6 months from the age of 12-24 months old. If you’re teenage child is considering discreet braces such as Invisalign Teen, they’re teeth will need to be free from bacteria caused by sugar before treatment begins.