Your Oral Health

Dental Decay and Sugar

Tooth decay is caused by bacteria in the mouth using sugar from foods and drinks to produce acids that dissolve and damage the teeth.

The single most important cause of dental caries is the frequency with which sugar-containing foods and drinks are consumed.

23% percent of 8-year-olds and 40% of 15-year-olds consume sweet snacks or drinks between normal meals three or more times a day. 48% of all adults snack between meals, most commonly on biscuits and cakes.

Did you know that:

  • A carbonated drink (Cola) contains 35 g of sugar per 330 ml can.
    – 35 g of sugar is equivalent to 7 teaspoons or 11 cubes of sugar.
  • A typical blackcurrant juice drink contains 70g of sugar per 500ml bottle – 70g of sugar is equivalent to 14 teaspoons or 22 cubes of sugar (more sugar than contained in three standard packets of chewy sweets).

The WHO recommends adults should eat less than the equivalent of 6 teaspoons of sugar a day to avoid health risks such as tooth decay and weight gain. For children over the age 4, the maximum is 5 teaspoons per day, while it is recommended that children under 4 avoid sugar sweetened drinks and foods with added sugar.

Gum Disease

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is a set of inflammatory conditions affecting the tissues surrounding the teeth. In its early stage, called gingivitis, the gums become swollen, red, and may bleed.

Periodontal disease is generally due to bacteria in the mouth infecting the tissue around the teeth. Factors that increase the risk of disease include smoking, family history of the disease, and diabetes. Diagnosis is by inspecting the gum tissue around the teeth and X-rays looking for bone loss around the teeth.

Treatment involves good oral hygiene and regular professional teeth cleaning, including deep cleaning under the gums. In certain cases antibiotics or dental surgery may be recommended. Treatment can be with your dentist, hygienist or in some cases a referral to a specialist periodontist is recommended.

Advanced gum disease can lead to infections, tooth mobility, drifting or movement of teeth, and eventually tooth loss.

Looking after Your Children’s Teeth

When the babies’ teeth begin to erupt, brush them gently with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush. Fluoridated toothpaste should not be used on children’s teeth under 2 years of age.

Children aged between 2 and 7years, should have supervised toothbrushing using fluoridated toothpaste no less that 1000ppm fluoride. They should use only a small pea size amount and should spit out and not swallow.

At age two or three, you can begin to teach your child proper brushing techniques. But remember, you will need to follow up with brushing until age seven or eight, when the child has the dexterity to do it alone.

Tooth decay in children

Tooth Decay is the most common infectious disease of childhood and unfortunately we see it a lot among children in Longford.

Prevention is better than treatment and the best way to prevent dental decay in children, like adults, is to limit sugar intake.

Children under the age of 2 should never be given sweets or sweetened drinks and should be encouraged to drink water as well as milk. Developing healthy habits as babies will have beneficial effects for years as children grow.

For older children, ‘sweets’ and ‘sweetened drinks’ should be given as an occasional treat only, once or twice a week at most.

Parents should also be wary of ‘no added sugar’ food and drinks which may still contain high amounts of natural sugars and can cause tooth decay.

Soothers and bottles

If your baby uses a soother (dummy) never dip it in sugar, syrup, honey or anything sweet. Also you should never put it in your own mouth as this will transfer your oral bacteria and could make your child more susceptible to tooth decay.

You should never put sweetened drinks, including fruit juices into your baby’s bottle.

If possible wean your baby off bottle feeding by 12 months.

Avoid leaving a bottle in your baby’s cot for prolonged periods. It should be removed once your child has fallen asleep to reduce the risk of nursing caries.