Children love sweets, chocolate and fizzy drinks. Every parent knows that, and it is tempting to let them have the occasional treat if it makes them happy. However, many families take this too far, existing on a diet that is much too high in sugar, and this can have very negative effects on a child’s oral health.
A recent survey from toothpaste manufacturer Colgate revealed just how large of a problem this is. The company polled dental healthcare professionals, finding that 97 per cent of them see at least one child in their practice every single day who is suffering from the results of a high-sugar diet.
Furthermore, over a quarter (26 per cent) of dental professionals said they see in excess of five children come into their practice with dental caries as a result of eating too much sugar. This is a major problem that is setting children up for a lifetime of obesity and tooth decay if nothing is done to improve their diets.
So how can this situation be improved? Dentists are likely to have talked to their patients over and over again about the dangers of sugar; almost two-thirds told Colgate that they just repeat the same dietary and oral health advice for caries prevention in children ‘most or all of the time’.
If talking isn’t working, potentially dentists should start using dental marketing materials to help their message to stick. It is harder to ignore a warning to cut down on sugar, for example, when it is printed on a pamphlet in your hand.
There is also the danger of ‘hidden sugars’ – food that seems healthy, like dried fruit, but is actually high in sugar – which catch many parents unaware. This means they are potentially feeding their children a high-sugar diet without realising.
Nigel Denby, a dietician who consulted on Colgate’s research, said: “As a dietician, I’m an advocate for healthy foods like dried fruit and yoghurt, which are necessary for a healthy balanced diet. These types of foods also contain ‘hidden’ sugars that can contribute to caries. Families shouldn’t try to avoid all sugar in their diet though; it’s not practical and would mean they’d be missing out on naturally healthy foods.”