Dangers of snacking for children’s teeth
Toothbrushing alone cannot stop decay in children who are prone to snacking, says new study
Researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow have found that toothbrushing alone is not enough to protect children’s teeth from decay caused by sugary foods and drink.
The study looked at nearly 4,000 pre-school children and found that the snacking habit was the behaviour most strongly associated with decay.
Children were significantly more likely to have dental decay by the age of five if they consumed soft drinks more frequently and if they ate sweets or chocolates once a day or more often. Compared to children who, at the age of two, mainly ate meals and did not snack much, those who snacked all day but had no real meals had more than twice the chance of dental decay by the age of five. Also, children who at two were using a toothbrush less often were more likely to have dental decay at five, and the study found that there
was an incremental association between a decreasing frequency of tooth-brushing and higher chances of dental decay.
Lead researcher Dr Valeria Skafida, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political and Sciences, said: “The findings somewhat follow general common sense and intuition, in that frequent snacking and consumption of sugary drinks and foods was associated with higher chances of dental decay in young children. The same holds for children who brushed their teeth less often.
“In terms of how oral hygiene and diet work together, brushing teeth frequently (twice per day or more) somewhat attenuated the detrimental effect of poor diets on children’s teeth, but not completely. Children who persistently consumed sweets and chocolate more frequently at both age two and age five had a more than a three-fold chance of dental decay compared to those who consistently ate such foods less often at both ages two and five. This suggests both diet and oral hygiene require attention in order to ward off dental decay in young children.
“One should not assume that good brushing habits can neutralise the damage that very frequent snacking and consumption of sugary foods and drinks has on children’s dental health.
“Finally, children from more disadvantaged backgrounds were far more likely to experience dental decay. Even with targeted policies that specifically aim to reduce inequalities in children’s dental decay it remains an ongoing challenge to reduce social patterning in dental health outcomes.”