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Wolverhampton Information Network

A Little Trip To The Dentist

Your children could be consuming more sugar than you realise, putting them at risk of tooth decay, weight gain and even type 2 diabetes. Simply taking a little trip to the dentist can help you better understand what food and drink contains sugar, what alternatives are out there and how to develop and maintain the best possible oral health routines.

Across the country, children are having up to three times the recommended amount of sugar every day with many 10 year olds having already exceeded the maximum suggested amount for 18 year olds.

Only 20% of two year olds have been to the dentist and tooth extraction is one of the leading causes of hospital admission in five to 10 year olds, so it’s absolutely vital that children have check-ups regularly and from an early age – even before teeth come through.

A baby doesn’t need to teeth to have an appointment and the dentist doesn’t even have to look in their mouth. Simply going and getting the chance to experience the sights, sounds and smells of a practice is invaluable in making later check-ups more comfortable.

There’s also a host of useful tips you can get from your dentist about what food/drink is better for your baby’s teeth and what to avoid.

Seeing an NHS dentist is free for babies and children or young people under 18, pregnant women and mums who have had a baby in the last 12 months. Families can find a local NHS practice by visiting www.nhs.uk/service-search.

Watch the videos and read the sections below for more information.

What is the issue?

Eating too much sugar can lead to tooth decay and unhealthy weight in children.

A little trip to the dentist at a young age can help families get the advice they need to start the best possible oral health routines from the beginning. Dentists can advise on how sugar affects teeth and how to reduce it by recognising what foods and drinks are have high amounts plus what to look out for on the label.

Excessive sugar consumption can result in tooth decay, and ultimately hospitalisation to have teeth removed. Eating too much sugar can also result in a child becoming overweight and putting themselves at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

As babies gradually start to eat like the rest of the family it’s important that they aren’t introduced to too many ‘free sugars’. These can be found in all sorts of food and drink including puddings, buns, custards, biscuits, cereal bars, flavoured yoghurts, breakfast cereals, squash and flavoured milk. Many parents may not know that things like unsweetened fruit juices, fruit purees, smoothies, and ingredients such as fruit juice concentrate, syrups, nectars and molasses are high in free sugars.

A healthy balanced diet based on starchy foods, protein foods, vegetables, fruit, and dairy without free sugars is best for babies’ teeth. It’s a good idea to get babies used to the different textures and tastes of fruit and vegetables themselves rather than too many ready-made juices, purees or ‘fruit equivalent’ snacks which are high in sugar.

Early visits to the dentist can help families get a better understanding of the effects sugar can have, offering a valuable opportunity to get advice on reducing sugars in diets. Dentists can also give useful tips on how the way we consume food might make a difference. For example, eating dried fruit as part of a meal instead of a separate snack reduces the impact the sugar can have on teeth.

It also ensures that a dentist can spot problems before they get worse and highlight any areas in an oral health routine which could need improvements. And if no treatment is needed, it’s a great way of helping families and children feel comfortable, making future check-ups much easier.

Why is it important?

  • Children are consuming on average two to three times more than the recommended amount of free sugars
  • Children have already exceeded the maximum recommended sugar intake for an 18-year-old by the time they reach their tenth birthday
  • On average, children consume the equivalent of around eight excess sugar cubes each day, adding up to around 2,800 excess sugar cubes per year
  • Across England, only around 21% of children under two have had their teeth checked by an NHS dentist – with many areas in the West Midlands much lower
  • A quarter of five-year-olds have already experienced some level of tooth decay, with an average of three or four teeth affected
  • It’s estimated that around 12% of children in England may have decay in their teeth by as early as three-years-old
  • A child in England has a rotten tooth removed in hospital every 10 minutes
  • A recent study by the University of Birmingham shows that only 3% of children in England have visited the dentist before their first birthday.

How to brush your baby's teeth (6 months to 7 years)

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A 20 minute video from HENRY all about what we can do to help children grow up with healthy teeth.

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