The more you expose your child’s teeth to sugar the more likely they are to suffer from cavities (holes in their teeth) and enamel damage. Over time this can lead to pain, stress, time off school and even the need for teeth to be removed.
There’s no question that avoiding sugar completely is the best way to avoid tooth decay. However, if your child does want a sugary drink or treat now and then there are a few tricks that can help minimise the damage.
Tips to reduce the risk of tooth decay
1. Choose water or milk throughout the day. However if you do, only give your child occasional sugary or diet drinks at mealtimes.
2. Yoghurts are often seen as ‘healthy’ but they can be full of sugar. A low sugar option is to give your child a ‘no added sugar’ yogurt or natural yogurt with some fresh fruit.
3. Be cautious with sports drinks, they are packed with sugar.
4. Packaging doesn’t always mention sugar. Look out for words that end in ‘ose’ such as fructose, sucrose and glucose. Even if they are naturally occurring sugars they can still be damaging.
5. Drinks that say ‘no added sugar’ don’t necessarily mean low sugar as they may be high in natural sugars
6. Pure fruit juice and smoothies can have other health benefits, but they can be high in sugar so restrict them to mealtimes and only have a small (150 ml) glass per day.
7. It’s a good idea to supervise brushing until your child is about eight.
8. Make sure your child brushes their teeth last thing at night (after any food and drink) and at least one other time during the day.
9. Use a small-headed brush with medium to soft bristles with a pea-sized amount of family fluoride toothpaste. Also it’s best your child doesn’t wet their toothbrush before adding toothpaste or rinsing their mouth out after brushing as this can wash away the fluoride on their teeth.
10. Take your children to the dentist when their first tooth comes through or at least by the age of one. It is free.
11. Ask your dentist advice on hygiene, diet, and treatments like fluoride varnish and fissure sealants.