Sugar seems to be in everything these days. Avoiding it seems to be impossible. Don’t fear…

Here are some tips that can help prevent tooth decay state “Poor oral health negatively impacts quality of life—it affects eating patterns, sleep habits, self-esteem, interpersonal contacts, and participation in social or community activities,” says M. Hazem Seirawan, DDS, MPH, MS, clinical associate professor at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry at the University of Southern California and co-author of the study. “Affected individuals might avoid conversation, laughing, smiling, and other nonverbal expressions in order to hide their mouths and teeth. All of that may contribute to poor academic performance.”

1- Don’t not give your child sweets, but restrict them, make them more of a treat, or have a sweetie day once a week. My eldest likes her sweetie day at the weekend, or sometimes we will change it too after her swimming lesson as a well-done treat.

2- Fruit juices should be watered down, as they still contain sugars, the same goes for smoothies. They may be good for our ‘10 a day‘ but not for our teeth. Also, limit fruit juices and smoothies to 1 small glass a day, and offer this at a meal time. Babies and toddlers should avoid cordials and ‘toddler juices’, its best to offer them water so they don’t develop a preference for sugary drinks.

3- Get your child into a good routine when it comes to brushing their teeth. There are so many products on the market these days: themed toothbrushes, flavoured toothpaste, timers, reward charts and even apps. When your child reaches the age of 3 they should be encouraged to spit out the excess paste, but not to rinse their mouths with water. Rinsing washes away the fluoride. Make teeth brushing fun.

4- Offer water during the night, unless you have a baby then milk will more than likely be required. Do not add anything to the milk like flavourings. Teeth are more prone to decay at night because there is less saliva in the mouth.

5- Try to give fruit and vegetables as snacks. Although they do contain a high amount of natural sugars and acids, they are deemed to be the better alternative. Watch how many snacks you are also giving your child. If your child is a grazer, their teeth will always be in contact with sugars and bacteria. Cavities develop when sugar-containing foods stay in the mouth for a long time. The saliva will help wash away some bacterias, but if your child is a grazer this won’t happen.

6- Register with a dentist when your child is approx 6 months old. Get them used to the dentist and the whole experience. There is nothing worse than battling a dentist phobia. There are many dentists out there that are brilliant with children. It is recommended to see your dentist every 6 months.

7- Avoid fizzy drinks. Keep them for special treats ie- birthdays. Fizzy drinks contain huge quantities of sugar, and also acids that gradually erode the enamel. If your child does have fizzy drinks, encourage the use of a straw, as the drink will pass over the teeth.

8- Use sugar-free medicines. The BMJ state “many contain sucrose which encourages dental decay”

9- Talk to your child about sugar and how it harms teeth. We know in our household that ‘sugar bugs live in lots of food, and they like to make holes in our teeth, so we have to brush away the sugar bugs”. My daughter goes around telling everyone that lots sugar bugs live in sweets and chocolate… Give them the knowledge and encourage them to make choices.

10- Don’t prolong the use of a bottle for your baby. Once they are 12 months, sippy cups should be encouraged.

Finally, remember that you are their role model, so lead by example.