It’s all about children’s teeth as I flick through today’s news, with surgeons revealing that thousands of children need dental operations each year because their teeth are rotten.
Hearing about Britain being in the grip of a ‘national crisis’ when it comes to child tooth decay seems startling, but I welcome the dramatic headlines as it can be extremely confusing for parents to know how to monitor their children’s sugar intake.
Professor Nigel Hunt from the Royal College of Surgeons is even calling for sugary foods and drinks to carry cigarette-style warning pictures to highlight the risk of rotting children’s teeth. With figures revealing that 45,000 children are now being admitted to hospital to have teeth removed (with 26,000 of those admitted between 2013-14 aged between five and nine – up 14 per cent from 2011), I think this is a great idea!
Nutrition at nursery and pre-school
As a parent I know that we all love to make our children happy, and what makes them happier than a big slab of cake, an ice cream or bag of sweets? But changing the perception that offering treats is not entirely in their best interest may be just what some people need to make healthy changes – because it’s not all about their teeth when it comes to consuming sugary food and drinks.
I am not ashamed to say that I led a campaign at my local nursery to change meals – there are still a lot of sugary puddings on the menu, but things have improved leaps and bounds in two years. I couldn’t understand how under fours need to eat two sweet puddings a day, for example: chocolate sponge with chocolate custard, then later on in the day meringue with custard!
They were also being offered squash with meals – I would only let mine have water, which left me feeling like the ‘bonkers mummy’ who had to make excuses for being ‘overly protective’. I felt embarrassed to only allow them to eat certain foods, so it was a relief that the following changes were made:
- replacing all squash with water only
- replacing yoghurts with brands that contain only naturally occurring sugars
- cutting down on sugary puddings during the day
- only using homemade recipes (no jars).
Similarly, I still aim to buy snacks that use natural sugars (Organix and Goodies brands are favourites). Now they are almost 2 and 4-years-old, we do let them have sugary foods, but mainly on weekends and as part of a meal.
These are my three top reasons for keeping my kids sugar intake to a minimum:
- I know that they aren’t very good at brushing their teeth – and as much as I try to pin them down, when it is bedtime and you are trying to keep the peace, it can be hard to get to every nook and cranny.
- I want them to enjoy other foods as much as the ‘naughty’ foods and not to depend on them to have a sugar fix. As someone who is an absolute chocaholic (I know, I know, hypocrite), I hope that this will install a bit more self-control in them as they get older – time will tell!
- I want them to feel healthy and not have big sugar highs and lows – and also to have a healthy relationship with food where they get excited about fruit instead (one of their favourite meals is ‘fruit surprise’, which is basically a fruit cocktail with yoghurt over the top).
This is what has happened as a result:
- There are fewer arguments when we go to shops as my children don’t expect me to buy them a bag of sweets or bar of chocolate.
- I appear to have created sugar monsters… when they do have something sweet, they get a bit too over excited – some of my friends say this is the downside of not letting them have sugary foods regularly. Yes, that may be true, but at least they appreciate it when they get it!
- I can bribe them! Because sweets and treats are not a regular thing, if I really need them to behave then I can tempt them with something they are not normally allowed. I reserve this for times when I most need it!
Top five tips for caring for your teeth
by Amit Rai, General Dental Practitioner and Aquafresh Complete Care Sugar Acid Protection
- Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time with a fluoride toothpaste, and remember to supervise children’s brushing if they’re under seven years of age. Compared to adult tooth enamel, the enamel on children’s teeth is 50 per cent thinner so make sure you spend enough time with your little ones making sure they are thoroughly cleaning their teeth.
- Avoid rinsing your mouth with water or mouthwash after brushing because this washes the protective toothpaste away – just spit out any excess toothpaste. To gain maximal benefit, it is advisable to use mouthwash at a different time to brushing.
- Try to eat your sweet treats around mealtimes rather than nibbling all day (I know that can often be difficult!) to limit the exposure of sugar to your teeth throughout the day.
- When you’ve finished eating, eat a small piece of cheese – it will help to neutralise the acids that causes tooth decay.
- Look for a toothpaste that protects against sugar acid. Sugar is used by bacteria in the mouth which produce acids, which can dissolve the protective minerals on the surface of the tooth. In time,the sugar acid can dissolve mineral from the tooth, leading to cavities.”
Sugar-free banana and raisin cake
Finally, here is my favourite banana and raisin recipe that was given to me by a friend a while ago. It is ridiculously easy to make and you would have no idea there is no sugar in it…
- 4oz self raising wholemeal flour
- Half a teaspoon of cinnamon
- 2oz butter
- 3oz raisins
- 8oz banana
- 1 egg, beaten (I’ve done it without egg and it still tastes good!! Just add a drop of water)