As a mother of three I know how tough it can be to do the best thing for your children all the time. Children will nearly always want the unhealthy options and after endless whining and tantrums it’s easy to give in. I don’t like to go overboard on either sugar or artificial sweeteners but a little of each won’t do any harm. There are some great sweet shops on the internet where you can get sugar free versions of all the old sweet shop favourites.
Tooth decay is caused by sugar. The best way to prevent it is by limiting the amount of sugar your child has in what they eat and what they drink. Here are some suggestions.
Keep sweets, cakes, chocolate and biscuits as treats. A bar eaten in one go is better than a packet of sweets as the sugar attack is shorter. Substitute healthier alternatives where you can.
Avoid sugary drinks. Substitute squash for water, or sugar free squash. Sugar free fizzy drinks are better than sugary ones but all fizzy drinks slowly dissolve teeth and should not be drunk too often.
Be aware of hidden sugars – tomato ketchup, baked beans and fruit yoghourts are examples of foods very high in sugar. Nutella is 55% sugar! If in doubt check the ingredients label; the nearer sugar is to the top of the list, the higher the sugar content.
Be aware of natural sugars. Honey is extremely bad for teeth. Dried fruits such as raisins, sultanas and dried apricots contain natural sugars in a very concentrated form with a sticky texture and are therefore bad for teeth if eaten too often. Sugars in fresh fruit juice can also be harmful to teeth if drunk more than once a day.
Beware of organic food promoted as a healthy option. These foods can still be full of sugar and organic sugar rots teeth just as effectively as normal sugar!
Give children nothing but water after brushing their teeth at bedtime.
Never give your baby a sugary drink in a bottle.
Cleaning: Clean your child’s teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste as soon as the first teeth appear. There is concern amongst dentists that many of the ‘children’ toothpastes now in the shops have levels of fluoride in that are actually too low to protect teeth. Ensure the level is at least 1000pm of fluoride up to 3 years and 1450-1500pppm over 3 years. You will need to supervise them to around age 7.
Disclosing tablets can be used after brushing to show any areas of plaque that have been missed. Using disclosing tablets is good fun for children and helps them to gain an interest in looking after their teeth.
Mouthwash and flossIt is a good idea for children to use a fluoride mouthwash but only when they are old enough to rinse and spit properly. When they are old enough to manage they should start flossing
Visiting the DentistChildren should visit the dentist for a check up every 6 months. As per guidelines from the Department of Health they should also have an application of fluoride varnish applied at the dentist once every 6 months.
Never mention your own fears of visiting the dentist when your children are in earshot. This will seriously affect you child’s own attitude and a worried child may be very uncooperative.