How to keep your children’s teeth healthy
No doubt you pay a lot of interest in your child’s health and well-being. But do you ignore or neglect their oral health? Because it is an ‘invisible’ threat, it can easily go undetected.
A diet that contains high levels of sugar is one of the major reasons for tooth decay in kids. Your mouth has many different types of bacteria living in it and certain bacteria feed specifically off sugar to produce acids that soften the tooth’s enamel (the protective cover over your teeth). This could result in a cavity and effective brushing of teeth can only do so much to counteract the effects of sugar if your daily sugar intake is very high.
Saliva is the body’s natural way of counteracting the damage sugar causes in your mouth through a process named remineralisation. It acts as a buffer against harmful acids resulting from sugar. However, as mentioned earlier, if the intake is high, and constant, you’re not allowing a chance for this process to happen effectively.
The answer is water! Drinking water assists with the production of saliva, helping buffer remineralisation action. If your child consumers sugary drinks instead of water, however, they will be facilitating the exact opposite and negative outcome of aiding the bacteria that creates cavities in the teeth.
Weakened tooth enamel is relatively easily restored through remineralisation. However, a cavity can lead to serious and harmful outcomes. When the damage to your teeth is too severe, a cavity or hole can form in your tooth, and the only way to fix a decaying tooth is to visit a dentist.
The severity of a cavity can range from a small to medium cavity that can be covered with a standard dental filling to a more severe form of decay that has spread down to the root of the tooth resulting in you having to undergo a root canal treatment, which is more invasive.
Regular scheduled dentist appointments can help minimise the damage to your oral health. Your dentist will keep a close eye on all your teeth during your visits and catch any signs of decay early on, which is crucial if you want to avoid more invasive treatments down the road. If you think your child has a cavity or any of their teeth are causing pain or issues, do not delay scheduling an appointment with your dentist to seek advice!
Watch Dr. Daphne talk about Paediatric Dentistry in the video below.
How to reduce sugar intake
The WHO recommends that the daily intake of sugar be limited to twelve teaspoons (50g) of sugar, or 10% of your daily energy intake requirements. In Australia, there is no set metric for sugar, and this suggested amount is for an average adult.
Therefore, it is difficult to provide an exact measurement for the daily intake of sugar for children. It varies greatly depending on their age, sex, and other health factors. Much depends on maintaining a balanced diet and healthy eating habits. Reducing sugar intake in your diet does not mean you need to limit your child’s food intake. It’s more important that you instil in them the values of good food habits.
For an estimated guide for the daily intake of sugar for children and how drinks compare for sugar, click on the link below.
You’ll be amazed at how a 375ml small can of fizzy drink can take up almost 80% of your recommended daily sugar intake, leaving only 20% of your sugar allowance for food during the day!
Packaged foods and drinks often carry large amounts of added sugar in them. Paying close attention to your child’s diet and snack habits is crucially important.
It isn’t necessary that you cut sugar off from your family’s diet. As with anything, moderation is the key.
Cutting down on fizzy drinks is a great place to start. Replace soft drinks, energy drinks or other carbonated drinks with water.
Check the nutrition labels on food when grocery shopping. A lot of food naturally contains sugar and doesn’t need added sugar. Tomato sauce is a great example – a tablespoon of tomato sauce contains the equivalent to a teaspoon of sugar!
Try to limit your intake of processed foods and get used to eating a balanced diet with fresh vegetables, fruit and wholegrains.
For more detailed information & tips from the Australian Dental Association on how to protect your kids’ teeth from sugar, watch the video below.
Caring for your child’s oral health
It’s important to pay attention to your child’s oral health from the time they are born, even before their teeth start to develop. Starting to build healthy habits from the beginning reduces the risk of tooth decay significantly.
As an infant, you can clean around your child’s gums after they’re fed. At around four months, it’s usual for teething to begin. You can help ease the symptoms of swollen gums or redness by using a teething device or even a cool, wet muslin cloth.
A baby’s first tooth will emerge around six to twelve months. This is the time for you to schedule in their first dental appointment. Your dentist will recommend that you introduce a toothbrush – there are toothbrushes designed specifically for infants with soft bristles that won’t damage delicate gyms.
When they’re about 18 months old, you can add a pea-sized amount of toothpaste that includes fluoride to the routine. When they turn 3-4 years old, you can transition to teaching them to brush their own teeth – but under your supervision. Learning the correct technique to brush their own teeth is crucial, so don’t be afraid to consult your dentist so they can help you with this process. Around ages 7-8, they should be confident in brushing their own teeth by themselves.
Routine dentist check-ups – at least every six months – is crucial so that even if a dental issue arises, they can be addressed quickly without any delay to avoid any intrusive treatments that may follow if you neglect them.
Visit our friendly team of dentists
Our team of dentists and support staff are highly experienced and trained in all aspects of children’s dentistry. We want to make sure children of all ages are comfortable and relaxed when they visit us and this is where early intervention is key.
It’s important to introduce your child to the dentist as early as possible, so we can start off with a gentle, non-invasive check up to establish a positive relationship with them!
Book your kids in for regular routine dental checks and ask our expert team of dentists any questions you have about diet or tooth problems!
For more information on how much sugar is too much for kids and to learn more on how you can help reduce dental anxiety, click on the link below to read the full article.
If your child is experiencing any pain or discomfort in their teeth or simply need a routine check-up booked with the dentist, get in touch with our friendly team at Fernvale Dental or book an appointment online.
Meet the Author
Dr Kapil Raniga
Dental Surgeon (BDSc Qld)
Dr Kapil Raniga grew up in Brisbane where he went to school at John Paul College on an academic scholarship. He attended the University of Queensland where he successfully completed his Bachelor of Dental Science degree. After working in Ipswich for several years, he opened our Plainland practice.