Brushing children’s teeth only partially protects them against the damage caused by sugary treats, new research reveals.
Under five-year-olds who snack on sweets or chocolate, or guzzle sugary drinks, are twice as likely to suffer tooth decay even if they brush their teeth, a study found.
Even those who eat yoghurt between meals have an increased risk of the dental condition, the research adds.
Lead author Dr Valeria Skafida from the University of Edinburgh, said: ‘Our results indicate that consumption of soft drinks, sweets and chocolates should be reduced to protect against dental decay, however, there are also changes required in relation to dietary practices more generally.
‘In Scotland, parents are advised to limit sugary foods to mealtimes, however, our results suggest that snacking generally may be detrimental to children’s teeth.’
Levels of dental decay among children in Scotland fell with the introduction of the oral-health programme Childsmile in 2011, however, progress has slowed as sugary snacks now make up 15 per cent of youngsters’ diets.
Brushing children’s teeth only partially protects them against sugary treats (stock)
ONE IN SEVEN TODDLERS HAS TOOTH DECAY – BECAUSE PARENTS ARE UNAWARE THEY NEED TO BRUSH THEIR CHILDREN’S TEETH
One in seven toddlers has tooth decay, research revealed last August.
Some 14 per cent of three-year-olds have a decayed, missing or filled tooth, a study found.
Experts worry parents do not appreciate the importance of brushing their children’s teeth as they juggle the responsibility of raising a family.
Study author Maria Morgan from Cardiff University, said: ‘People don’t realise that you should start that early.
‘We are having some children at five, six or seven who are having five, six, seven, eight, nine teeth removed in one go.’
How the research was carried out
The researchers analysed 3,832 children aged between two and five years old.
They investigated their oral hygiene habits, including how often they brush their teeth, whether they brush before bed and how frequently they have dental check-ups.
The researchers also assessed the children’s snacking habits.
Yoghurt increases decay, fruit reduces it
Snacking throughout the day without eating meals doubles children’s risk of developing tooth decay.
While yoghurt increases youngsters’ risk of the condition, munching on fruit lowers their likelihood of developing it.
The findings also show children who brush their teeth less than once a day, or not at all, at two years old have twice the chance of having dental decay at five.
Youngsters whose parents feel they lack control over their children’s diets are also more likely to suffer from decay.
The findings were published in the Journal of Public Health.
‘Toothbrushing can only in part reduce the impact of sugar’
Dr Skafida said: ‘Our results indicate that consumption of soft drinks, sweets and chocolates should be reduced to protect against dental decay, however, there are also changes required in relation to dietary practices more generally.
‘In Scotland, parents are advised to limit sugary foods to mealtimes, however, our results suggest that snacking generally may be detrimental to children’s teeth.
‘This study has shown that toothbrushing can only in part reduce the impact of sugar consumption and snacking on dental decay outcomes in children under five.
‘Huge progress has been made around improving oral hygiene in the UK population, however, the same progress has not been seen in terms of sugar intake.
‘Diets low in sugar, and particularly reduced sugar-snacking, must continue to be promoted to reduce dental decay in children.’