A recent report from the Guardian highlighted the growing severity of tooth decay in young children. Statistics show that in 2012-13, more than 36,000 surgical procedures were carried out to remove teeth from children and teenagers in England. This figure rose to more than 42,000 in 2016-17. (That’s 170 procedures per day!)
The primary cause of tooth decay is poor diet, mainly the consumption of too much sugar. Overconsumption of sugar can also lead to obesity and diabetes. People are making poor choices and also we’re being tricked by hidden sugars in so-called ‘healthy snacks’.
As well as visiting a dentist for regular check-ups and encouraging brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, the most valuable thing we can do to help look after children’s teeth is to reduce the amount of sugar that they consume.
You may have heard of the ‘Sugar Smart’ campaign, set up to increase awareness and reduce consumption of sugar. Bath and North East Somerset have joined this campaign and have highlighted that in this area (BANES) we are consuming up to three times more sugar than we should. The campaign promotes the idea of "sugar swaps", whereby we exchange a sweet snack for a healthier option, such as fresh fruit, plain yoghurt, nuts or vegetable sticks.
It’s not just sugar in foods that we need to be aware of as many drinks also contain large amounts of sugar. Appearances can be deceptive as healthy looking fruity drinks may seem healthy, but they contain lots of added sugar. We should swap soft drinks, fruit juice and flavoured milk for water, lower-fat milk and diet, sugar-free or no-added-sugar drinks.
One of the images attached shows the amount of sugar in some common foods and drinks. A 500ml Ribena Blackcurrant contains 12.5 teaspoons of sugar. However, 1-2 year olds should only be consuming 3 teaspoons of sugar per day, and 3-4 year olds should only be consuming 4 teaspoons of sugar per day. It all adds up as another image attached shows that if you have Cheerios for breakfast, then later a Barny Bear snack accompanied by a Capri Sun drink, that totals 8.5 teaspoons of sugar (nearly three times more than the recommended amount for a 1-2 year old).
We can control the amount of sugar that we consume by making foods from scratch, for example baking our own cakes and sweetening them with fruit. Encouraging children to help with cooking activities can help them to make healthy choices later on in their lives, as well as it being a positive learning experience.
This problem of tooth removal not only affects children’s dental health but can also have other implications for children’s well-being in terms of their ability to eat, play, socialise and speak normally.
The campaign is suggesting that families make a pledge to become healthier – e.g. finding a new breakfast they can all enjoy. This where you come in! Would you be willing to get involved and share a family pledge with us? Get in contact either here on the website on through our Facebook page!
Further information -
For more information on Sugar Swaps –