Tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease and preventative measures are not fully understood according to a recent study. Figures published by the Health and Social Care Information Center in the UK this year, show that tooth decay is now the biggest cause of hospital admissions for young children.
Closer to home, a report by YouGov last year, found that 28 percent of UAE residents only brush their teeth a single time a day. Furthermore, World Health Organization (WHO) statistics revealed that more than 50 per cent of five-year-old children in the UAE had four or more decayed, missing or filled teeth. Only 17 percent were decay free.
“Many parents think they know how to look after their children’s teeth, but these figures show that they are not as knowledgeable as they think,” says Dr. Benjamin Samuel, General Dentist at Medeor 24×7 Hospital, Dubai. “Parents need to be better informed about dental hygiene to prevent the onset of tooth decay in their children.”
“The first step in parents taking measures in the prevention of tooth decay starts by dispelling myths associated with dental care,” said Dr. Sandeep Malhotra, Specialist Pediatric Dentist at Medeor 24×7 Hospital, Dubai.
Dr. Sandeep outlines some common myths associated with dental care in children:
- Fruit Juice is Healthy: It is not uncommon to see children sipping on little tetra paks of fruit juice during recess at school or at the mall. Parents are quick to give these to their children instead of fizzy drinks however they are just as unhealthy as a can of cola due to their high sugar and acid content. Some packaged orange juices contain as much as 6 teaspoons of sugar per 250ml which results in tooth decay. The acids erode the enamel resulting in weaker teeth. Milk and water are the best drinks to give your child. If you are to give them a fruit juice, dilute it with a cup or two of water and make sure your child drinks it quickly rather taking a few sips every hour with a sippy cup. This minimizes the contact time the unhealthy juice has with their teeth.
- Dried fruits are better than chocolate: Raisins, dried apricots, dried figs and prunes are popular snack options for parents looking to give their kids healthier alternatives to chocolate. However, these dried fruits have an adverse effect on teeth as they are high in sugar and since they are sticky they sit on the teeth eroding the enamel. This ultimately leads to a cavity. As a better, healthier alternative for the teeth, opt for nuts, seeds, breadsticks or croutons.
- Brushing teeth right after a meal is good: Most parents encourage their children to brush their teeth right after a meal to ensure food debris is cleared from the mouth. Most foods or drinks even milk contain some acid which acts on the tooth and demineralizes it right after eating. This leads to softer enamel and if someone brushes teeth right after a meal chances are they are brushing away the enamel. Encourage your child to brush their teeth before breakfast rather than after and if they are older than 8 give them sugar free chewing gum. The chewing action results in the production of saliva which helps fight decay as it neutralizes the acid.
- Toothpaste should be rinsed out after brushing: It is a very common misconception in dental care where adults and children alike rinse out the toothpaste after brushing their teeth. However the fluoride present in toothpaste acts on the teeth for a period of 30 minutes following the brushing of the teeth. As uncomfortable as it maybe, it is advised that adults and children do not rinse their mouth immediately after. Also make sure that children above the age of 3 use adult toothpaste as toothpastes meant for children have lower fluoride content.
“Tooth decay in children in the long term while being painful can also be a traumatic experience for children especially if they have to undergo an extraction. It is important for parents to inculcate good dental habits starting young and we at Medeor 24×7 Hospital are committed to ensuring optimum dental care through the dispelling of commonly held myths amongst the community,” said Dr. Mohamed Berer, Medical Director at Medeor 24×7 Hospital, Dubai.