'Healthy' treats cause tooth decay in babies and children

So-called 'Healthy' snacks containing sugars damage babies teeth

According to new figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre, almost 26,000 children in England aged between five and nine have been hospitalised for multiple tooth extractions in 2013-14 - that's the equivalent of almost 500 a week. 

Removal of rotten teeth is now the primary reason children in this age group are admitted to hospital. In some cases, dentists have no choice but to remove all 20 baby teeth from their young patients.

Those from comfortable lifestyles are at just as much risk as youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds - with  middle-class parents feeding their children so-called 'healthy' snacks that cause more damage than junk foods, and working mums often too busy to take their children for check-ups.

The legacy can be far more serious than just a phobia of going to the dentist.

'The best predictor of adult tooth decay is dental health at the age of five,' says Dr Mervyn Druian, a dentist who specialises in cosmetic dentistry and reconstruction. 'It's not something that disappears when your baby teeth fall out.'

Many so-called healthy snacks are packed with sugar...

Dr Nicole Sturzenbaum, of Toothbeary Richmond, a private surgery in one of London's wealthiest boroughs that caters exclusively for the under-18s, has seen a steady increase in the number of children needing extensive dental work to save baby teeth since it opened in 2008.

According to Dr Sturzenbaum, part of the problem is that parents think they are giving children 'healthy' foods and drinks, but it is these that can cause the most damage.
'Parents don't realise that fruit juices contain more sugar than cola,' she says. 'And many so-called healthy snacks are packed with sugar, too.'

Cavities are caused by two factors: decay, which occurs when bacteria in the mouth react with sugar, causing acids to form that soften and dissolve enamel; and acid erosion, which happens when acid in food or drink comes into direct contact with enamel.

Although enamel on baby teeth is as hard as enamel on adult teeth, the layer is thinner, making children's teeth more vulnerable.

Dr Sturzenbaum says that 'sippy cups' containing juice are a short cut to dental decay. 'Sipping on apple juice all day bathes your teeth in acid soup,' she says. 'It's doubly damaging because it's both sugary and acidic.'

Then there are the dried fruit snacks - raisins, mango, apricots and the like - seen by mums as a 'healthy' alternative to biscuits and crisps.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, says they are a significant problem. 'Raisins are supposed to be healthy - one of your five-a-day - but they are concentrated forms of fructose, or fruit sugar, which reacts with bacteria in the mouth to create acid.

'They are sticky and cling to the space between the teeth, sometimes for an hour or more, all the time causing potential damage.'

Milk is another culprit. While many parents assume cow's milk is a wholesome drink, it too contains a type of sugar: lactose. Formula milks for children aged from one year upwards also contain added sugar.

Decay is a particular problem if the milk is in contact with the teeth for extended periods.
There is even a condition called 'bottle cavities' which develops because a child is left to constantly suck on a bottle of milk (usually to stop them crying).

While people tend to assume that because they're 'just baby teeth' they don't matter, experts say the outcome can be a lifetime of poor dental health.

So what can parents do to stop their children developing cavities at such a young age?

Proper tooth brushing, twice daily is vital.  Dr Sturzenbaum advises parents to give children water rather than fruit juice, and to cut down on snacking.

She also says that parents have to take responsibility for brushing their children's teeth until at least age eight. Brushing should last at least two minutes twice a day, and she recommends that children floss from around the age of four.

Source: Article adapted from Daily Mail -

Published 23rd July 2014


Posted: Jul 27, 2014