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Parents: We Need To Talk About Children’s Teeth

As a parent, you naturally want to do the best for your child. Which, of course, means looking after their health.
You’d think feeding your little one a healthy diet, giving sweets only occasionally, and being there to supervise at brushing time would guarantee decay-free teeth.

So imagine your horror if you then discover a hole in your toddler’s tooth. It’s not exactly something you’d want to talk about.

Parent-shaming and tooth decay

It seems the worst thing you can do if you think your child has tooth decay is turn to the internet for help. The media has been full of reports over the last 12 months about the worrying state of our children’s teeth.

On top of which, parenting forums can be less than supportive, with members savaging each other for ‘not trying hard enough’ or being ignorant of the dangers to children’s teeth.

Tooth decay in children is falling

The reality is that while many children suffer from tooth decay in the UK, the numbers are going down.

The 2013 Children’s Dental Health Survey for England, Wales and Northern Ireland published recently, showed that almost half of eight-year-olds and a third of five-year-olds have signs of decay in their milk teeth. But numbers had fallen since the previous survey in 2003.

But parents face an uphill struggle, thanks to the hidden sugars in everyday foods and drinks.

A little girl brushing her teeth against a white background.

Hidden sugars in everyday foods

Children’s teeth suffer from our high sugar diets. Sugar in its most obvious forms (sweets, chocolate and biscuits) is constantly on offer. You only have to look in your local supermarket, petrol station or newsagent.

But even if you resist confectionery, you’re still not safe from sugar. There is added sugar in all kinds of foods, even the ones you might not expect – like bread.

Some of the products we think of as ‘healthy’ actually contain high amounts of sugar. And many other everyday foods and drinks contain more sugar than is good for us.

Some of the worst culprits are:

  • Dried fruit
  • Fruit juice
  • Breakfast cereal
  • Flavoured yoghurt
  • Sports drinks
  • Ready-meals

The NHS website has some really useful information on how to reduce the hidden sugars in your diet.

What to do if you suspect tooth decay

If you think your child might have tooth decay, don’t panic. Make an appointment to see your dentist. There can be many reasons for your child having tooth decay. The important thing is getting the damage repaired before it gets any worse.

Children should start to visit the dentist regularly from when their very first tooth appears, and definitely by two and a half.

Posted by Oak Mount Dental Practice

Website last updated: June 2022

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