A big rise in toddler tooth decay has been linked to “healthy” fruit juice trends.
Parents have been urged to limit the amount of sugary drinks given to children after dentists found 31 per cent of Scots P1 pupils show worrying signs of tooth decay. The figures were revealed by Cherrybank Dental Spa, who believe so-called healthy juices and smoothies are to blame for a rise in dental problems among kids aged two to five.
Unsweetened fruit drinks count towards one portion of the recommended five-a-day.
But experts say crushing the fruit releases sugars that damage the teeth more than eating fruit whole.
Drinks with high sugar content can cause tooth decay. If untreated, it can cause sensitivity, enamel fracture and pain.
Each time you drink anything sugary, your teeth are attacked by acid that reacts with bacteria, wearing away the enamel.
Lauren Long, dental hygienist at Cherrybank Dental Spa in Edinburgh, said: “Parents perceive fruit pouches as being healthy but they are a big source of childhood tooth decay as the way they are consumed means the teeth are in contact with sugar for a long time. I recently saw a two-year-old who had a lot of fruit pouches as a baby. They are marketed as being healthy and organic with no additives but the child had decay in her top four front teeth due to this. The message we try to get across to parents is that even natural sugar is still sugar and should ideally be eaten at mealtimes to minimise the effect on the teeth.
“Milk, cheese and water are good snacks for between meals as they are low acidity and will not cause any harm to the teeth. Brushing your child’s teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and six-monthly trips to the dentist is what we recommend for healthy teeth and gums.”
Here, we look at drinks and snacks considered by dentists to have high erosion potential.
Drinks with artificial sweeteners are thought to increase tooth erosion as they contain high levels of acid. Packaged fruit juices are especially bad because many contain added sugar. If you want to drink fruit juices, try to eat something alkaline such as cheese afterwards, which can neutralise the acid effects of sugar in your mouth.
Many yogurts are highly acidic, causing erosion to the enamel. Not only do some yogurts contain added sugar but certain bacteria in the milk react with sugars in the food, triggering acid production and enamel erosion. Rather than snacking on yogurts, the British Dental Health Foundation recommend saving yogurts for meal times.
Dentists say apples contain quite high levels of fruit sugars, which can cause damage to our teeth. Because of modern production techniques, it’s thought that some apples contain the equivalent of four teaspoons of sugar. So while your GP may agree with the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”, your dentist is likely to have a different view.
Sparkling water is almost as damaging to your teeth as flavoured fizzy drinks. This is because your teeth are being bathed in a weak acid solution containing carbon dioxide, which is thought to wear away our teeth.
Although sultanas and raisins are a good source of energy, they have high erosion potential because they contain large amounts of natural sugars. Dried fruits are particularly bad because they tend to stick to the teeth for longer.