How to keep your kids smiling – with healthy teeth
The nation’s children are suffering from an epidemic of tooth decay. The statistics are scary:
- 26,000 children between 5-9 were admitted to hospital for tooth extractions last year.
- Tooth decay is the most common reason for a child to have to undergo an anaesthetic.
- 40% of UK children haven’t visited a dentist in the past year.
The dedicated team at Finn Dental Specialists has been caring for kids’ teeth for more than 30 years.
Here are our top tips to ensure your child’s smile stays bright and healthy.
Beware hidden sugars
Examine the labels on the sweets, treats and everyday foods your children eat. Sugar should only be a small part of the diet, less than 5%, but even a quick glance over the packets and tins in your local supermarket will tell you that it’s in almost everything.
Sugars are found in baked beans, cereals, flavoured yoghurts, pasta sauces, and even bread.
The recommended limits for children are:
Aged 4-6: 5 sugar cubes / 19g
Aged 7-10: 6 sugar cubes / 24g
Aged 11 +: 7 sugar cubes / 30g
If your child is having a bowl of sweetened cereal in the morning, a small packet of sweets after school, a couple of chocolate biscuits to take the edge off before dinner, and then a pudding, it could add up to as much as 14 cubes of sugar. And a single can of Coke contains 9 teaspoons or 36g of sugar, so it’s all too easy to go over the recommended daily limits.
Then there are the natural sugars in honey, fruit juices, vegetable juices, smoothies, and dried fruit, which all add up. These are better for kids as they also come with all-important vitamins and fibre, but they still count towards a child’s daily sugar intake, so it’s important to keep an eye on how much your little ones are eating. The Change4Life website has a great ‘Be Food Smart app’ that helps calculate sugar intake and suggests healthy swaps.
Honey, by the way, isn’t better than sugar – although it’s natural, it’s still very damaging!
Try to stick to fresh, whole fruit, rather than smoothies, and avoid too much dried fruit. They linger in the mouth and stick to the teeth, which causes decay.
Establish a good teeth cleaning routine with a fluoride toothpaste.
At our practice, we care daily for patients with complex dental problems that might have been avoided with a better toothcare routine in childhood. Nobody wants to see their child suffer the pain of tooth decay, and the sleepless nights, gappy smiles and days off school that come with it. Make sure your child brushes their teeth at least twice a day for three minutes with a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
It’s never too early to take them to the dentist.
Make an appointment as soon as your child gets their first teeth. They won’t dread the dentist so much if it’s part of a yearly routine at a friendly dental practice like ours, where they can get to know and trust the staff. We suggest that if you get anxious about the dentist yourself, it might be better to ask a friend or relative to take them, so they don’t pick up on your fears.
Ask your doctor or chemist for sugar-free medication. Many children’s cough-syrups have added sugar to make them taste nice, but there are always sugar-free alternatives.
Baby bottles are only for milk!
Never put anything but water or milk in baby bottles. Sucking fruit juice out of a bottle will damage tiny teeth.
Don’t keep a cupboard full of treats
You’ll only eat them too! And sugar damage to teeth is made worse by frequency. Sweets and treats are better given all at once, rather than a small treat each day.
While it’s great to see your children at their check-ups, we don’t want them to be in the dentists’ chair too often.