A primary cause of tooth decay in children is sugar.
However, its not necessarily the amount of sugar, but the frequency of intake that is
Therefore the more often your child has sugary or acidic food the more likely they are to have decay and erosion.
In a perfect world dentists would prefer if snacking was avoided altogether; but obviously this is simply not a reality with children.
Therefore, the type of snacks children are eating is the key to preventing tooth decay.
Fruit contains very little sugar, and in small doses is not detrimental to teeth.
However, it does contain acid, which can damage children’s teeth and will be detrimental if eaten frequently throughout the day.
Dried fruit however, is another matter entirely.
Although fresh fruit contains sugar it also contains plenty of water which helps limit the damage to the teeth.
When fruit is dried it looses this water producing a sticky substance that is essentially concentrated juice with a very high sugar content, like raisins.
Raisins are an extremely popular snack for children, but are also one of the main contributors to tooth decay in many children.
Although, amongst many parents, raisins are thought of as a healthy snack; they contain high levels of sugar and they stick to the teeth.
Therefore, acid and sugar attack on dental enamel goes on for longer, ultimately causing tooth decay.
Fruit smoothies are another ever increasing popular method for parents to encourage their children to maintain the recommended ‘five a day’ fruit and veg intake.
Although smoothies fruit content makes them seem healthy, the high levels of sugar and acid can cause a lot of damage to teeth.
Smoothies are thick and stick to teeth leaving the sugar and acid in contact in contact with the dental enamel for longer, therefore having more time to cause decay.
Also, every time you sip on a fruit smoothie your teeth are placed under an acid attack for up to an hour.
Consequently if you sip on smoothies throughout the day your teeth will have been under attack from sugar and acid for the entire day.
We advise parents to give children fruit juices at meal times only and one glass
Sugars in whole pieces of fruit are less likely to cause decay because they are combined with fibre.
In the dental surgery we are diagnosing more and more children with tooth decay as a result of the dried fruit and fresh juice combination in their diet.
So our top tips to avoid this are:
Try savory snacks such as raw vegetables, nuts, cheese, breadsticks.
Give your child a chunk of cheese after meals. Cheese is alkaline and if
they have eaten something acidic it can help neutralize the bacteria that
It is unreasonable to think we can remove all sugar from our children’s
diet but we can limit it, the main aim is to limit the frequency of intake.
Brushing regularly with a fluoride containing toothpaste is essential.
Children cannot brush their own teeth effectively until aged eight so
continue to help them until then.
Regular, early dental check ups are important to encourage dental health
and so oral health problems can be spotted early.
Watch out for hidden sugars.
Dentist Gina Kilfeather is based in Greystones, Co.Wicklow.