Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Toothy Tips - Sneaky Sugars

I started this Toothy Tips series with tooth brushing tips for toddlers and I've already been asked for advice about sugar and snacking.  It seems a good time to be posting this with it being Halloween today and Halloween often meaning lots of sweeties and treats!  As always, if you have any queries about teeth or sugars, consult your own dentist, these are just a few tips based on what we do with the twins and my knowledge as a dentist.

Priya adores cashews as a snack, especially in the woods.

When it comes to sugar it is important to not only think about the amount of sugar you eat but the frequency and timing of it too.  The longer the sugar is in your mouth, the more time it has to potentially cause damage.  I will go into more detail on how decay happens in another post but basically you want to limit the amount of sugar and its time in your mouth.

There are a few simple tips you can follow to reduce the risk of decay (caries) and still enjoy the odd sweet treat.

Try to avoid sugary foods between meals, instead eating them as part of a main meal and ending with something savoury.  A piece of cheese or similar after any dessert is ideal to reduce any residual sugars and neutralise acids in the mouth.  Saliva plays an important part in reducing sugars in the mouth so eating sugars at times when saliva is already flowing helps to reduce the risk.

Avoid anything sugary before bed.  You naturally have less saliva in your mouth at night so it will take longer to balance things out in the mouth so after brushing your teeth before bed, have nothing else to eat or drink other than water.

Avoid sticky sweets.  If you're going to have a sweet treat, stick to something like chocolate which will melt and wash away quicker than toffees for example.  Equally, other sticky sweets or hard sweets you'd suck on keep sugars in your mouth for too long so are best avoided.

The same goes for fruits, although fruit is healthy and contains natural unprocessed sugars, these sugars can do as much damage as other forms of sugar if consumed too often.  I've had parents tell me before that their child never has sugar and yet they have decay.  When exploring their diet, it is invariably fruit that's the culprit.  People just don't seem to realise that natural sugars found in fruit can cause the same damage.  Of course we don't want to discourage fruit due to the obvious health benefits, it is less of a risk than some other sugars but hearing that kids have open access to the fruit bowl whenever they like is a concern, constant grazing on fruit throughout the day, even as part of an excellent diet, can absolutely cause cavities, I've seen it myself.

It's also best to stick to fresh fruit rather than dried fruits for the same reasons as avoiding sticky sweets.  Dried fruits can linger in the mouth for much longer and have a higher concentration of sugar.  The sugars in fresh fruits are generally lower risk as they are contained within the cells of the fruit so there is less released into the mouth during eating, another reason to avoid fruit juice and smoothies because the cells have released the sugars.

Frequency of sugars in the diet are very important too, we had a specific sweetie day when growing up, every Friday my brother and I got 50p to spend on sweets and would usually eat them all immediately - this is the best way.  It's just one attack on the teeth rather than spreading it out and we knew sweetie day was Friday and we never had sweets the rest of the week unless it was a special occasion like a party.  If you were to have a bar of chocolate, eat it all in one go rather than eating half now and half later as that would be two attacks on the teeth.

Drinks are another one to watch out for.  Stick to milk and water for every day drinks with anything else being an occasional treat.  I've had parents telling me they've tried to give their child squash but he didn't like it and they seem baffled and disappointed.  I wonder if they think it's a good idea due to extra vitamins but there's really no need and the added risk of extra sugars makes this a no-brainer for me.  If you must give your child something flavoured, try to stick with sugar-free versions as these are the only ones with no sugar.  Definitely avoid fizzy drinks, even diet versions are bad for the teeth due to the acid (more on this another day), they have SO much sugar, it really depresses me to see 2 and 3 year olds drinking these with their precious little teeth as it's also giving them a taste for something they just don't need.

The twins love milk and happily drink water, we get no whinging asking for alternatives because they've just never had anything else to drink!

Loving his milk aged 1

Hidden sugars can also be a danger, things you may not think of as sweet can contain a lot of sugar, examples include ketchup and baked beans as well as some yoghurts and plenty of other things.  You can often buy reduced sugar varieties of these but be aware how often you're having them.  Beware of "no added sugar" items such as squash.  These still contain sugar, only "sugar free" products have no sugars in them.

Of course, I don't expect people to avoid sugar all of the time, just be sensible and try to keep sugars to mealtimes, particularly avoiding them in the evenings before bed when we naturally have a lower saliva flow rate.  The twins have had chocolate, cake, soreen, raisins and other dried fruits (especially in emergency situations when out and about) but we try to limit these and they only this week had their very first and only Haribo sweetie (from Granny - she did ask first though).  When they've been given these things as prizes or in goodie bags, we take them out before they see them.  Even when Granny offered Priya the jelly ring, she was very suspicious until told she could eat it!

It might sound a bit mean but the twins do still get plenty of treats (and I have been known to bribe them with chocolate to get a good photo!  Bad dentist!), we're just careful about exactly what and when they get them.  Plus some treats they love are actually not sugary, like crisps and twiglets.  I'll not get into salt content here, this is all about teeth and where teeth are concerned, sugar is the issue.

Kalyan's first Easter chocolate!

So, basically you just need to think about exactly what and when you're giving your child (and yourself) sugar and in what form.

A few examples of things to avoid:

Toffees, gummy sweets, boiled sweets, similar sticky sweets.
Fruit based sticky chews (fruit winders and the like)
Raisins and other dried fruits
Smoothies & Juices
Fizzy drinks

A few ideas of alternative snacks that the twins like:

Hummus & carrot or cucumber sticks
Cheese & crackers
Nut butter (the twins actually call this chocolate!?) on rice cakes or with apple slices
Bread sticks
Nuts (the twins love cashews!)
Sugar free jelly

Change 4 Life have an app which you can use to scan labels and see exactly how many sugar cubes are in certain products.  Like I said, some of them you wouldn't think of as being sweet treats but they can have an excessive amount of sugar hidden inside.  Take ketchup for example - just 1 tbsp serving contains a whole sugar cube.  Some cereals are so high in sugar, even plain tasting rice crispies contain sugar.  The twins only have weetabix, shredded wheat, plain porridge, fruit or toast for breakfast.  They have recently taken a liking to honey so occasionally have a little smear on toast or a crumpet as part of a meal but usually have marmite and never jam.  They also love banana in their porridge as a special treat and "cold blueberries" with mini shredded wheats (frozen ones are cheaper and turn the milk purple).

I think it makes a difference to restrict what they're given from an early age.  The twins have never had the chance to get used to overly sweet things for breakfast so they're quite happy with the above options.  The same with sweets, they rarely get them and view raisins as a special treat.  Don't get me wrong, I do believe in moderation and on special occasions they get plenty of cake and other treats but I've had to extract and fill far too many teenie teeth in teenie children to let mine eat sugars too often.

In summary, the basics are:

Keep sugary foods to mealtimes.
Avoid sticky sugars.
End on a savoury (cheese is a good option).
Drink water or milk.
Avoid sugars before bed.
Watch out for hidden sugars.

Also - tips for Halloween trick or treating, instead of sweets, you could give out bubbles, little toys, stickers...  This is also great from the point of view of children who have allergies, I recently heard about the Teal Pumpkin Project which aims to get households taking part in handing out non-food items to trick or treaters so those with allergies aren't left out.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


TOTS100 - UK Parent Blogs