Choccy Eggs for Breakfast?
Eight Top Tips to Help Stop the Easter Bunny Delivering your Children a Mouthful of Cavities
Tooth decay is the most common oral disease affecting children and young people in England and tooth extraction is still the most common hospital procedure in 6 to 10 year olds.
We’re surrounded by worrying stats and phrases such as ‘tooth decay epidemic’, ‘dental desert’, and ‘appointment backlog’, but the good news is, despite the bleak picture, tooth decay/cavities are largely preventable and there some really simple steps to help keep tooth decay away.
With chocolate treats and sticky sweets especially in abundance at Easter and many other times of festivals and celebration, how best to serve these sugary delights and also try to look after your little one’s precious smile?
When it comes to devouring the Easter bunny’s basket of goodies, timing is everything. If abstention isn't on the menu, then the next best option is to serve it for breakfast (lunch or dinner!).
Shorten the sugar hit
It might feel counter-intuitive, but avoid dragging out the sweet treats and get them over and done with. Sugary food and drinks are one of the main culprits in causing tooth decay. The lower the frequency of sugar hits, the better. Teeth can recover in between the attacks, but if they are too frequent, there is no chance to recover, and the chance of cavities increases.
Easter eggs as part of a meal
Whilst the sugar stakes are high and chocolate is in more abundance than usual, offer it at mealtimes after a ‘savoury’ first course. Acid is a by-product of the mouth’s naturally-present bacteria breaking down the sugars. This acid then attacks the tooth surface and works to break down the enamel coating, which is the first stage of decay. Baby teeth are softer than adult teeth so are especially susceptible. Eating the sugary stuff as part of mealtime means more chance of saliva and other foods balancing out the sugar and acid hit and reduces the acid danger zone frequency too.
It can be tempting to want all ages to join in with the array of Easter offerings but the longer little ones can avoid sweets and chocs the better. Non-foodie gifts are an obvious alternative but so too are savoury bites such as carrot muffins. They can look the part and be hugely enjoyed as part of an easter meal but with less risk to your baby or toddler’s delicate pearly whites.
Beware the sticky stuff
Sticky sweets stick to and in between the teeth more easily and the same goes for dried fruit. Sometimes presented as a healthy option, sadly dried fruit is, for teeth, like chewing on a sticky little sugar pill. Opt for whole fruits instead and again keep them for mealtimes.
Finish off a mealtime with a stick of cheese. Cheese’s higher pH level helps to neutralise the acidity (low pH) of the sweets and sugars so makes a great way to try and mitigate some of the negative effects.
Sip sip hooray!
Use open cups, from the start of weaning onwards, to instil the healthy habit of open cup sipping, instead of sucking. When children master this skill early on with a mini open baby cup, they get the health benefits from the start, the spills are small and there’s no need to relearn the skill later on when the ‘stabilisers come off’ and there’s a potential for bigger spills. This also makes this healthy habit, which supports good orthodontic development in babies and young children, and helps deter from developing a habit of constant sucking/using a cup as a pacifier and the potential for prolonged exposure to sugary drinks, ‘the norm’ and a good habit for the rest of their life.
Swish it away
Help neutralise lingering acid effects of food and drink, and help dislodge any sticky bits stuck in the teeth, with a vigorous swoosh of water after eating. Show your little one how it’s done by modelling this action and encouraging them to copy you. And when it comes to drink choices, avoid fruit juices and fizzy drinks as their acid hits are big assault on teeth.
Don’t brush directly after eating or drinking
Many leading dental professionals now advocate brushing teeth before eating. Whatever you chosen method, be sure to never brush directly after eating or drinking. Wait at least thirty minutes to one hour to avoid risking scratching away enamel that’s under attack.
With tooth decay being largely preventable, it’s a crying shame that it’s the cause of nearly 9 out of 10 hospital tooth extractions among children aged 0 to 5 years and tooth extraction is still the most common hospital procedure in 6 to 10 year olds, according to data up to 2019*.
With what we know now, we can take these small steps and help change the face of childhood oral health with these simple steps for childhood oral health wins.
There's a lot to smile about :-)
Sara Keel is a mum of three, Founder of the British-made open baby cup brand www.babycup.com, an advocate for improvements in childhood oral health and a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy childhood
Babycup Sippeco First Cups mini open baby cups for healty sipping