HOW IS DIET IMPORTANT TO MY CHILD’S ORAL HEALTH?
Watching your child suffer with toothache is a painful and upsetting experience. The main cause of toothache is tooth decay. And too often the main cause of tooth decay is too much sugar in the diet. Every time your child eats or drinks anything containing sugar, this sugar combines with the bacteria in your child’s teeth to form acid. This acid attacks their teeth for up to an hour after eating. It can damage their tooth enamel, causing a hole or ‘cavity’ to form. This in turn can lead to fillings – or even an extraction.
Cutting down on how much and how often your child consumes sugar will reduce the damage these acid attacks can cause.
WHICH FOODS ARE BAD FOR MY CHILD’S TEETH?
There are the usual suspects: chocolate, sweets, biscuits, cakes and fizzy drinks. By combining with bacteria in your child’s mouth, they produce high levels of acid. This acid attacks their teeth, damaging the enamel, and leaving them vulnerable to tooth decay.
There are also foods you might not instantly associate with tooth decay. Starchy foods such as crisps, white bread and pretzels not only contain high levels of sugar, they get stuck between teeth more easily. The longer foods like these are in contact with your child’s teeth, the greater damage they can cause. For this reason, it is important they are confined to mealtimes.
Other surprise offenders are fruit smoothies, fruit juice and dried fruit. Whilst considered healthy, they are not tooth-friendly. Their high sugar content can be harmful to your child’s teeth if consumed between mealtimes.
Pre-prepared, healthy snacks can be a godsend when you are short of time. Try chopping cubes of cheese, carrot sticks, grapes or segments of tangerine and storing them in sealed containers. They can be called upon when you have no time to prepare anything. And will help you resist the temptation of giving your child sweets or biscuits.
Ever wondered exactly how much sugar some of our favourite snacks contain? Take a look below.
You may be surprised to discover that many snacks exceed the World Health Organisation’s recommended daily intake of sugar (6 teaspoons) in a single serving!
- Pepsi – 9 teaspoons of sugar per 330ml can
- Coca Cola – 9 teaspoons of sugar per 330ml can
- 7UP - 9 teaspoons of sugar per 330ml can
- Mars Bar – 8 teaspoons of sugar
- Heinz Sticky Toffee Pudding – 7 teaspoons of sugar
- Twix Bar – 6 teaspoons of sugar
There are, however, a whole host of tooth-friendly treats to choose from. These can be eaten between meals without damaging your child’s teeth, and include… fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, toast (with a savoury topping), brown bread, breadsticks, crackers, cheese, milk, water, rice cakes, pita bread, plain yoghurt, plain popcorn, cottage cheese.
One way to make healthy food more fun is to get creative. Making shapes from pieces of fruit or veg can make tooth-friendly snacks much more appealing to your little one. From exotic animals to boats and funny faces, the sky’s the limit. Go on, unleash your inner child!
SO CAN MY CHILD HAVE SNACKS?
The more often your child has sugary snacks, the more likely they are to develop tooth decay.
Whenever your child does have a sugary snack, make sure they do so at mealtimes. At mealtimes they produce more saliva, which helps to reduce the effects of harmful acid attacks.
When sugary snacks are consumed between meals, however, less saliva is produced. This leaves their teeth much more vulnerable to the effects of acid, and increases their chances of developing tooth decay.
If you want to give your child a snack between meal times, try some of the tooth-friendly varieties mentioned above. There are plenty of suggestions to choose from. It’s also important to remember that - other than water - no food or drink should be given to your child in the last hour before bed.