With Dental Health Week coming up from August 4 – 10, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) is asking all Australians to consider the effect of sugar on babies and toddlers’ oral health.
Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease for children, even though it is entirely preventable. What is very concerning is that 72% of Australian parents and grand parents find it difficult to get children to eat less sugary foods. The impact of this can be seen in the fact that almost half of Australian parents (47%) have had their children experience symptoms of tooth decay in the past 12 months including toothache (23%), sensitive teeth (16%) and infection (10%).
Chair of theADA Oral Health Committee, Dr Peter Alldritt, said: “The ADA is not singling out Senior Australians for blame when it comes to harming children’s teeth. It’s common for parents and extended family members to offer children a ‘treat’ to reward good behaviour or simply to show affection.
“However giving such treats to children sends an inappropriate message about food from an early age and undermines other efforts to build healthy eating habits. Children who consume high sugary foods and drinks on a regular basis are at greater risk of dental decay as well as obesity and diabetes.
“Everybody needs to understand the risks and put some boundaries around access to treats. When rewards are given, we should ask ourselves, ‘is there a better option?’ We all have a role to play in encouraging healthy eating habits in our households.”
Sometimes the Sugar Bandit may not know they are harming children’s teeth. In fact many snacks that are marketed as ‘healthy’ are actually high in sugar and get stuck in kids’ teeth, increasing acid attacks which cause decay. Some of the major ‘healthy’ snack culprits are: dried fruit, biscuits (sweet and savoury), fruit juice, muesli bars, crackers, children’s cereals, flavoured milk, sweetened yoghurt, fruit bars, fruit slice, flavoured popcorn, canned fruit, baked goods and banana bread.
However Dr Alldritt was quick to add: “No one is saying children should never be allowed to eat these foods again. Rather, when choosing snacks, be aware of how much sugar is in them. More importantly, reduce the number of times they eat these foods and make sure they are eaten in one go, preferably as part of a meal. Grazing should be avoided and only allow high sugar snacks in moderation.”
The ADA has a website dedicated to DHW 2014 for babies and toddlers (www.dentalhealthweek.com.au), which has a range of materials that can help parents, relatives, teachers, child care providers and health professionals and health promoters.