With Easter almost upon us, children's teeth are preparing themselves for a chocolate onslaught.
Striking a balance between letting your child indulge on their treats and keeping an eye on their consumption is the best way to make sure their oral health doesn't suffer. It is how often, not how much sugary food and drink is consumed that causes oral health problems.
To help, the British Dental Health Foundation is offering the following tips and advice to help make Easter a treat for everyone.
TEN FACTS ABOUT CHILDREN'S TEETH AND DIET
- Britain is in the top five for the amount of chocolate consumption rate in Europe.1
- Some research suggests dark chocolate high in cocoa has oral health benefits.
- Two in three 16-24 year olds say chocolate is the food most likely to make them smile.2
- Tooth decay affects three in 10 children starting school.3
- It is not the amount of Easter eggs eaten that would cause tooth decay - it is how often they are consumed.
- Whenever your child eats anything sugary, their teeth will be under attack for up to one hour.
- Sugar causes the bacteria in plaque to produce acids. It is these acids which attack children's tooth enamel and cause tooth decay.
- Confectionery bars in Easter eggs containing fondants and caramel are potentially more damaging to teeth than the chocolate egg.
- Sugar-free Easter eggs are available to buy.
- Breadsticks, vegetables, cheese are healthy snack alternatives.
FIVE TIPS FOR A HEALTHIER EASTER
- Ensure sweet treats are kept to mealtimes.
- Ensure your child stops eating Easter eggs at least one hour before they go to bed.
- Monitor your child's chocolate intake, and give them small pieces that won't stay in their mouth for long.
- A glass of water is the best drink to give your child after eating chocolate.
- If your child still has a sweet tooth, give them sugar-free sweets. Those containing Xylitol may help to reduce tooth decay.
Dental Advisor Karen Coates added: "Sugar is a very prominent topic at the moment, so there's no better time for parents, educators and older children to take on board some key information about the potential damage sugar can do.
"Obesity is a large issue, but the first point of contact for these Easter eggs will be teeth. It is vital to keep them to mealtimes and not snack on them throughout the Easter break. The recent Children's Dental Health Survey3 highlights just how many children are suffering from tooth decay, an entirely preventable disease.
"These tips may sound simple, but they can go a long to improving the current level of tooth decay in children and herald further reductions in the future."
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1. The chocolate league tables 2014: Top 20 consuming nations
2. National Smile Month Survey, 2011. Sample size: 1,006.
3. Children's Dental Health Survey: England, Wales and Northern Ireland (2014). Health and Social Care Information Centre