Nearly six in ten children aged over eight have at least one filling, with tooth decay now affecting children in nearly half of the nation’s families over the past 12 months.
That is the key finding of a new study, which shows that a third of parents admit allowing their children to have soft drinks, juice and energy drinks at least four times a week.
In addition, 59 per cent of parents say they find it difficult to persuade their children to brush their teeth twice a day.
As such, 39 per cent of parents are of the opinion that they need to set a better example for their children when it comes to oral healthcare.
Oral Health Committee chairman Peter Alldritt said it is common for parents and extended family to offer children a treat to reward good behaviour or simply in response to children’s ‘pester power’, but using food to reward, bribe or comfort children sends an “inappropriate message” about food from an early age.
He said parents should consider the types of snacks given to their young ones, as many are marketed as healthy but are actually high in sugar or prone to getting stuck in youngsters’ teeth, increasing acid attacks that subsequently cause decay.
Some of the biggest culprits included staples such as dried fruit, sweet and savoury biscuits, fruit juice, muesli bars, crackers, children’s cereals, flavoured milk, sweetened yoghurt, canned fruit and banana bread, Mr Alldritt noted.
He elaborated: “When choosing snacks, be aware of how much sugar is in them but, more importantly, reduce the number of times they eat these foods and make sure they are eaten in one go and preferably as part of a meal.”