Updated: May 16, 2020
Life would be very dull if we couldn’t enjoy an ice cream or a piece of chocolate from time to time. There is plenty of evidence to support that when children brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, it is possible to have treats in moderation without developing new cavities. Yet there are still some dietary habits which consistently lead to severe decay in paediatric dental patients.
Different age groups are more susceptible to certain risky habits. Modern dietary counselling places a positive emphasis on good food habits rather than bad foods.
Up to the age of three or four many children drink from beakers, bottles and sippy cups. Dental decay in this age group is common and poses unique challenges in dentistry. Firstly children at this age may struggle to cope in the dental chair and may lack the co-operation needed to accept local anaesthetic safely. Untreated decay in baby teeth can cause pain and infection and the techniques used to fix these problems differ for children. The approach to preventive care in children is also very specific. These unique challenges may require the care of a Paediatric Dentist in a specialised or hospital setting. Dental decay in children this young often progresses rapidly therefore, pain and infection can come about in a short space of time.
The issue with sippy cups, beakers and bottles is not just what they contain but the way they are used. Bottles taken to bed at night being a case in point; When infants fall asleep with a bottle of formula or juice several factors come together to make this a high risk habit. Below the tongue are ducts of salivary glands which help bathe and cleanse the teeth. If a child has a bottle in their mouth the tongue covers these ducts and prevents saliva from protecting and cleaning the teeth naturally. Our mouths become a little dryer naturally at night. This function helps to prevent us from drooling. This makes the teeth much more vulnerable. Beakers also encourage children to stay drinking for longer periods during the day meaning that whatever they contain it is in contact with the tooth surfaces for longer. This age group typically develops decay on the smooth surfaces of the front teeth.
Good habits include:
· Early weaning from the bottle
· Clean teeth last night and after feeds
· Get your child used to plain water in the bottle and beaker
Frequent snacking between meals on biscuits, cereal bar snacks and dried fruit is common issue resulting in problems in this age group. All of the above foods contain a lot of sugars but most importantly they have a tendency to stick to and coat the surfaces of teeth making the sugar stay around for longer.
Good habits in this age group include:
· Keep food intake to no more than 5 times a day
· Rinse with water after meals to wash off the food particles and sugars from the teeth
· Confine intake of sweets and treats to after meal times only
· One serving of juice is enough in any day
· Water and milk are the only safe drinks
Confectionery and treats are nice rewards to enjoy and it is possible with good habits to have them and remain dentally fit and healthy.