As dentists call for sugar-free schools, here are 5 top tips for looking after your children’s teeth15th Aug 19 | Lifestyle
Help and advice for keeping cavities at bay.
Encouraging children to look after their teeth can sometimes be an uphill battle, but starting them out early in life with good dental habits can help to avoid painful tooth decay and cavities down the line.
With so many convenient sugar-laden treats in the supermarket, it’s vital parents stay wise to the effect too much sugar can have on their kids’ teeth, and try to minimise the damage early on.
Leading dental surgeons are even calling for schools to do their part and become sugar-free, after a study by the Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS) showed there were more than 100,000 hospital admissions for children under the age of 10 in England, due to tooth decay over a three-year period.
It’s a shocking statistic. Help keep kids’ mouths healthy with these top tips for teeth…
1. Make healthy snacks convenient
Most children want sweets and it’s probably an unrealistic goal for you to ban them from your household entirely – but you can help to minimise tooth decay by making sure they don’t have a large amount or very often.
Sugary snack foods are convenient to grab-and-go, but they’re often high in saturated fat, salt and sugar, and don’t have any nutritional benefits to growing kids – which is why you should see them as an indulgence rather than a daily part of their diet.
Get into the habit of preparing healthy snacks in a Tupperware box before you head out on a family outing.
Swap sugary chocolates and sweets for pieces of fruit, like fresh tangerines, bananas and strawberries. Raw vegetables and plain rice cakes can also tide kids over between meals, without causing a sugar high and inevitable crash. Good ideas include cucumber, tomatoes or carrot sticks.
2. Make cleaning their teeth fun
“It’s essential to make brushing teeth fun,” says Steve Preddy, dentist for Bupa Dental Care. “Getting children to brush their teeth twice a day can be hard and many shy away from this important chore.
“To try and break any teeth-time tantrums, you could let your child choose a toothbrush in their favourite colour, or one with a character from a TV show or movie, and make sure it’s the right size for your child’s mouth.”
Preddy says that making a checklist and simple reward chart with stickers can also work well too.
“Try downloading one of the fantastic and informative tooth-brushing apps, or singing your child’s favourite song for two minutes. Distraction techniques can make teeth brushing a much more enjoyable task.”
3. Lead by example
If you often skip brushing your own teeth in the morning, you can’t expect kids to take their own oral health seriously.
“To help your child to continue brushing their teeth and making it a part of their daily routine, you could let them watch you brush yours, or better still, let them have a go at brushing for you,” says Preddy. That way, they’ll be more inclined to copy mum or dad.
4. Eat sweets close to meal times
Rather than giving a few sweets throughout the day, it’s actually better for teeth to let your children eat sweets in one go, allowing the saliva in the mouth to neutralise the acids.
“When we eat, we produce more saliva, which helps neutralise the acids produced by bacteria in the mouth and also helps to rinse away food particles and sugary substances,” says Preddy.
5. Visit the dentist at least once a year
As a parent, one of the most important things you can do is book kids in for regular check-ups with their dentist.
“Many parents don’t realise that children should begin seeing their dentist as soon as their first teeth start coming through,” says Preddy.
“By doing so, dentists can not only spot any early warning signs, but also ensure that children grow up feeling comfortable with and used to regular visits, promoting long-term good oral health.”
He continues: “It’s good to remember that all children under 18 get free NHS treatment – as do people under 19 in full time education. Expectant and new mothers also qualify, making it easier for them to fit in appointments with their little ones.”
If you can’t remember the last time you visited the dentist, call and check. Your local surgery will have a record of your last visit.
© Press Association 2019