Babies and toddlers – how to avoid tooth decay by giving sensible snacks

tooth decay in childrenAll parents out there will understand, relate to or remember the transition from milk to solid foods. The weaning process. This can be an exciting time or this can be stressful, and everyone crosses their fingers that their baby will not turn out to be a fussy eater.

For some parents whose little darlings are picky with what they eat, they may fall into the trap of giving them food/snacks that they like, just because they are pleased that they are eating something. It’s worth remembering though that bad habits can start young, and if you want your child’s teeth to remain healthy for as long as possible, here are some snacks that you may wish to avoid.

Some snacks to be mindful of

  • Dried raisins – these are a handy, convenient snack that appear healthy (they’re fruit right, so must be good for infants?). Although they do contain vitamins and are great for helping babies develop their fine motor skills, the ‘pincer’ motion, they are very sticky and can become attached to milk teeth. The natural sugars within the raisins then can damage the teeth unless they are brushed thoroughly.
  • Fruit juices – although they are definitely a healthier alternative to sugary, carbonated drinks, fresh fruit juice contains natural acid which can wear away the delicate enamel of new teeth.
  • Flavoured milk – although most babies will continue having milk before bed for several years, try to keep this natural and unsweetened. Adding flavours to milk undoubtedly means adding sugar, and unless you’re planning on brushing their teeth again before they go to sleep, this means that overnight their teeth are at risk of decay. Even if these are marketed as suitable for babies, that does not mean that they are necessarily good for their teeth.

The best kind of snacks you can give your children are raw vegetables such as carrot sticks and cucumber, or fresh fruit such as orange segments and bananas. Snacks such as rice cakes and toast are also good for plugging the gaps between meals.

Getting into good habits early

Just remember, even if your little one doesn’t have a full set of milk teeth yet, you should be brushing their teeth twice a day for up to two minutes per clean. This will be hard for the very youngest babies, so don’t worry if it’s only a short brush before they aren’t willing to cooperate any longer. Regular brushing helps babies and toddlers associate this as part of their regular daily routine.

And also make regular trips to your dentist part of your routine. In shocking figures released earlier this year, the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons pointed to a 24% rise in the number of tooth extractions on children under four over the last decade.

Professor Nigel Hunt, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS) at the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), said: “When you see the numbers tallied up like this it becomes abundantly clear that the sweet habits of our children are having a devastating effect on the state of their teeth. That children as young as one or two need to have teeth extracted is shocking.  It’s almost certain that the majority of these extractions will be down to tooth decay caused by too much sugar in diets.”