Caring for Your Children’s Teeth: A Guest Blog by Dentist Graham Porter
For a dentist there are few things more upsetting than being presented with a crying toddler who has toothache, is clearly in pain and has been for some time and you, the dentist, know that nothing is going to take that pain away anytime soon. It is distressing all round; for the child and for the rest of the family obviously, but for the dentist the upset is twofold because we know it is all completely unnecessary. There is nothing inevitable about tooth decay and so the purpose of this blog is to help you as busy parents and carers avoid the scenario above.
The first thing to understand is that the enemy here is acid and acids are formed when sugars in the diet react with bacteria (germs) in the mouth – sorry but our mouths are filthy places crawling with all sorts of nasties! You may know that tooth enamel is one of the hardest substances in the animal world but, unfortunately, it dissolves quite easily in even weak acids. If theses acids are produced regularly enough the hard enamel is gradually eaten away until the softer inner part of the tooth is exposed. Once this happens those same nasties dive in and have a field day, munching away at the core of the tooth (or more usually teeth) until the inevitable happens and we are back where we started at the top of the page.
So it’s easy – never give your children anything containing sugar and all will be fine, yes? Well no not really; some sugar in the diet is important to provide energy for the brain and muscles to function properly. So here we come to the second important thing to understand. The main cause of tooth decay is not the amount of sugar or acid in the diet, but how often it is eaten or drunk. The more often your child has sugary or acidic foods or drinks, the more likely they are to have decay. So it is important to try to have sugary and acidic foods just at mealtimes. If you want to give your child a snack, try to stick to cheese, vegetables and fruit. Try to limit how much dried fruit you give as it is high in sugar and can stick to the teeth.
Don’t give them drinks containing sugars, including fruit juices, between meals. Even natural fruit juices, pure orange juice for example, is very acidic and contains fruit sugars so we have to be very careful. Fruit squashes which state ‘No added sugar’, if well diluted, are acceptable but try to give them water or milk instead. For babies, neveradd sugar to their drinks, or to foods when you introduce them to solids. It is also worth knowing that many processed foods including baby foods contain quite a lot of sugar. Try checking the list of ingredients: the higher up the list sugar is, the more there is in the product. Generally anything ending in ‘ose’ is a sugar, for example: fructose, glucose, lactose or sucrose.
Now, you may be thinking “But kids like sweets and it’s not fair to deprive them”. Of course they do but it’s also true that the more often they are given sugary foods, the more they will want them, not just in their early years but throughout their lives. Sugar in the diet has a major role in the growing obesity problem the nation faces too. So we come to the third important point for you to take away from this… high days and holidays don’t count! It’s the day to day routines that are important, the occasional treat won’t make a jot of difference. On a trip to the seaside, have an ice cream. On your birthdays have plenty of cake and buns. Just try to stick to the advice above on normal day to day life and enjoy those occasional treats.
This guest blog was written by Graham Porter, principal dentist at Graham Porter Caring Dentistry in Cottingham. If you have any questions about the info above or would like to discuss anything further please email him on Caringdentistry89@yahoo.com.
You can find them at 8/9 Castle Green, Cottingham, HU16 5JU, call them on 01482 841146 or check out their Practice website here.