As a parent, one of your top priorities is to give your children a healthy start in life. We all know that diet is one of the key factors in our health, and while obesity is one consideration here, there’s also the issue of tooth decay in children.

Part of this comes down to maintaining a good oral health routine, but tooth decay is also a direct result of eating high-sugar foods. Unfortunately, this problem is made worse by misinformation on food packets, with parents choosing advertised “healthy” snacks that are sugar-loaded.

The problem with sugar

To put the scale of this problem into context, recent figures show that a quarter of 5-year-olds have tooth decay with an average of 3-4 teeth affected. Tooth extractions are also the most common reason for hospital admissions for children aged 5 to 9 years old.

It’s important to note here that this is preventable. We know sugar is a major cause of tooth decay, so the question is how can we tweak our children’s diet to better care for their teeth? The British Dental Association have called for action on sugar-filled baby pouches, with top culprits including the “boutique” brands that market products “with no added sugar”. Although this may be true, the reality is that the sugar content in the foods themselves, naturally occurring or not, is worryingly high.

Understanding packet information

The British Dental Association has called out the “disingenuous” act of labelling these pouches with health benefits such as being “high in fibre” without noting the obscene sugar levels. This only confuses shoppers more, when the fact is that more than a quarter of pouches examined aimed at 12 months and under contained more sugar by volume than Coca-Cola.

The result is that parents are making apparent “healthy choices” yet being misled in the process. So, what to do? A good first step is to take a closer look at your usual choices of baby pouches and other children’s snacks before you buy them again. You will almost certainly be surprised.

What foods should I choose?

Of course, some natural foods, such as fruit, are higher in sugar and we don’t want to cut those out completely. To help you work out snacks and meals, the NHS have a good guide on the foods that cause tooth decay which is a useful jump-off point.

You can also find out a little more about low-sugar, healthy snacks advised by the NHS, which can be tried from weaning age at 6 months onwards and include things like:

  • Carrot or cucumber sticks.
  • Pitta bread strips.
  • Plain, unsweetened full-fat yoghurt.
  • Unsalted, unsweetened rice cakes.
  • Hard-boiled eggs.
  • Little strips of cheese.

The key is introducing a mix of these foods. Eating fruit for instance is a good thing, but to safeguard our teeth we need to offer them in moderation.

Convenient, low-sugar alternatives

Convenience is often the reason behind buying food pouches. We’ve all been there as parents. If you have limited time or your hands full with a busy family, pouches are an easy option when preparing purees from scratch might not be possible.

The key is being informed so you can make healthier choices. One speedy way to check out the sugar content as you shop is through the free NHS Food Scanner app, which scans the package barcode to show you exactly what it contains, and suggests healthier alternatives.

It’s little acts like this that could help you make changes that benefit your whole family and protect your children’s teeth.

To book an appointment for your child with one of our friendly dentists or hygienists call us on 01482 565488.