Dr Hiten Pabari looks at some of the challenges of ensuring good oral care for kids in our high-sugar age
There is little doubt about it; even if we aren’t actually addicted to sugar, most of us take pleasure in the sweet taste it produces. This has probably happened for as long as man has existed, with honey being an obvious source in the early days.
Whilst all sugars will lead to tooth decay without good care, man’s diet at this time would have been largely sugar free, with just the occasional ‘treat’. These days though, the story is entirely different.
The fact is that sugar is everywhere, and not just in the obvious places. Whilst, as adults, we can control our sugar intake to some extent, by reducing the amount of sugar we add to tea or coffee and watching what we eat, the reality is that sugar is added to almost everything, including many savoury products. This may be challenging for us, but our children simply don’t have that ability to distinguish what is healthy for them and what is not.
Most kids love sugar
You will be very hard pushed to find a young child that does not like sweets, and whilst we may have some control over their consumption, they are still likely to find ways of accessing it through friends and perhaps relatives. Add to that, the fact that they may not brush their teeth as well as they should, and it is probably not surprising to know that needing to have extractions under general anaesthetic is one of the leading reasons for young children to be admitted to hospital.
Investing in their future
You may have read in a past blog, or elsewhere, that it is advisable to bring your child to see a dentist around the time of their first birthday. We know that children can find the dental environment a little strange, and may even refuse to open their mouths or even sit in the dental chair on their first visit. It is pointless trying to force them to do this (unless there is a real clinical and urgent need) and, at Blue Sky Dental, should this happen, we simply use the time to talk to them, helping us to gain their trust. After a few visits to our Chelmsford practice, the vast majority of children will allow us to examine their mouth with little problem. This ‘bond of trust’ between dentist and patient, and especially younger patients, is very important in the provision of effective dental care.
Benefits to parents
No parent wants to see their child suffer with dental problems. Many of us will have experienced the pain of a bad toothache and would not wish that upon anyone else. Although most parents consider that they make sure their children look after their teeth, supervising them whilst they brush, there are still many areas that can contribute to oral problems which the parent may not even be aware of. Bringing your child to us for early appointments allows us not only to examine the child, but also discuss their oral care with you. For example, some parents may allow their child a bottle of warm milk at bedtime to sooth them to sleep. This may work, but it also means that their mouths are coated in sugars all through the night. Even a simple step, such as making sure that they clean their teeth AFTER the drink can make a world of difference.
All parents should, by now, be aware of the potential harm that sugar can cause, not only to teeth and gums, but with regards to other medical conditions too. With a recent report stating that, by the age of 10, most children will have consumed over 20 stones (actually 304lbs) of sugar (reference 1 below) , it isn’t difficult to see the scale of the problem that lies ahead for medical and dental professionals. Any successes to reduce the level of consumption are to be welcomed, and parents can also play their part in this by monitoring and attempting to improve the diet of their own children.
We can’t emphasise enough though, that even a child with the best diet in the world will need to see a children’s dentist on a regular basis. Dental problems will happen to nearly all of us. The difference between them being detected and treated early on, and being allowed to worsen can mean the difference between a healthy set of teeth and one where a number of teeth are missing. Getting your child into this early habit is an excellent way of helping them to have strong and healthy teeth well into their later years.
If you have a young child, please make it your new year resolution to make an appointment for them. You can call Blue Sky Dental for an appointment on 01245 211070.