Fed up of having a crying child around the house while you are busy finishing your pending office files or household chores? The best thing is to stop the crying with a big chocolate bar or a doughnut. Bribing kids with processed foods seems to be the only way out to get things done according to a large section of the parent population. Take a moment to think of the various situations in which you have voluntarily given a candy or a soft drink to your kid and you are sure to be surprised of the frequency! Yes. It’s time to realize the wrongdoings and set things right. The next time you want your child to perform well in dramatics play, study for an exam, do homework or sleep early take a pledge to never bribe them with their favorite snacks but lookout for other non-food rewards that would work out equally well! Failing to change to such means can lead to grave results as the current health scenario in kids and adolescents is barely up to the mark. There is a rise in obesity/overweight rates in kids and oral health is going for a toll with the spread of soft drinks consumption and processed foods. The consumption of soft drinks has increased by 500 times in the last 50 years and the major consumers are children, teens and young adults. Boys are found to be greater consumers of these beverages compared to girls.
Sour Effects of Sweet Food Intake
The intake of sugar sweetened beverages and snacks has a high risk of causing obesity, diabetes and also marks the path for an unhealthy lifestyle. Above all, sugar, the main ingredient in soft drinks and many snacks is the cause behind dental decay and tooth caries. According to public health experts without sugar there is not much scope for developing decay. The fact that 95% of 12-year-old kids in Philippines have tooth decay and cavities, 7 in 10 kids in India have tooth decay, one-third of Tanzanian teens and almost 1 in every 3 Brazilian kids suffer from dental problems does indeed emphasize the volume of the problem at hand. Earlier, it was only developed countries that ate a major portion of processed foods and low-income countries mainly relied upon plant- and meat-based diets, less sugar and processed foods but changes in the economy brought about a change to people’s diet as well. In the opinion of Marion Nestle who has written the book Soda Politics major soda companies such as Coca Cola and India are willing to spend billions of rupees in marketing in countries such as Africa and India alone.
If you look at the major cause behind tooth decay dental erosion (DE) occupies number one position. DE does not involve bacteria but is a gradual deterioration in tooth structure and dentine by chemical processes that affect primary teeth rapidly than permanent teeth due to the presence of a fragile enamel layer in primary teeth. Side effects of DE include hypersensitivity of the tooth, altered occlusion, eating difficulties and dental abscess. Its common in older children but UK’s National diet and nutrition survey reports 10% of 1.5-year-old kids and 53% of 5-year-old kids suffering from dental erosion presently. In Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), DE is present in 34% of 5-6-year-old children and 26% of 12-14-year-old kids and a study in a preschool in Jeddah showed that DE was 31% present in primary incisors. The main causes of such erosions include increased consumption of acidic fruits, fruit juices and carbonated drinks. Higher the consumption of beverages greater is the prevalence of dental erosion and the timing of consumption too is equally important. Health experts always suggest parents to refrain from using the feeding bottle at night for kids as there are greater chances of dental erosion when the bottle lingers in the kid’s mouth for a prolonged period. An acidic diet has all the possibilities of causing a destruction to tooth structure at night. It is sad to know that there is a high degree of ignorance among public when it comes to dental erosion compared to other dental disorders and there is a greater need to assess the status of DE in kids as DE in primary teeth is important for predicting the chances of DE in permanent teeth as well.
Understanding the Relationship between Dental Erosion & Dietary Intake
A study in Riyadh focused on understanding the prevalence of dental erosion in 3-5-year-old preschool children and to know whether there was any relationship between dental erosion and dietary intake in kids. The research team came up with a questionnaire that included information on the child’s age, gender, food habits (cakes, sandwiches, donuts, candy, ice cream) and interest in beverage consumption (fresh fruit juice, citric fruit juice, mixed fruit juice, flavored milk, plain milk). Clinical examinations were carried out at the kid’s schools using mouth mirrors, gauze, tweezers, masks, gloves, gowns, eyeglasses and lights. Each tooth surface was examined for loss of enamel surface characteristics and other DE presence. Every kid was put into one of the two groups based on the tooth surface scores. A child with score ‘0’ was placed in the no erosion group, a child with a score of 1 was placed in the low erosion group, score 2 was placed under ‘moderate erosion’ group and scores 3 and above were placed in the severe erosion group. In genera kids with no erosion on any tooth surface were placed in the ‘group without erosion’ and those with erosion on one or more teeth were put into the ‘group with erosion’.
The study included 388 kids of which 184 (47%) were boys and 204 (53%) were girls aged between three and five years selected from 10 different preschools. Shockingly among the 388 kids tested 235 (61%) of them had erosion on at least one tooth surface. The study showed that:
Factors Affecting Dental Caries
The form of food, frequency of consumption and combination of other foods play a significant role in causing tooth caries in kids. Most of the commercial soft drinks are highly acidic with a pH between 2.5 and 3.3. When kids consume sugar-laden drinks the pH falls below 5.0 due to acid production by bacterial metabolism. Most of the bacterial components of dental plaque linked to healthy sites can bear such a fall in pH. But such falls in pH is more commonly present in those subjects who consumed sugar-laden drinks and snacks in between meals. Such a condition encourages the growth of certain acid-tolerant bacterial species which puts the person at a higher risk of dental caries.
Hair Samples as Biomarkers of Dental Caries
The study was conducted in Alaska on 51 children aged between 6 and 17 years. Each of the parent-kid team was asked multiple questions pertaining to child and family demographics and child oral health behavior (sugar-sweetened beverage intake, toothbrushing, fluoride access, etc). All of the children involved in the study were taken samples of their hair and every kid received a tooth surface-level dental exam based on World Health Organization criteria.
The study population consisted of 50% females whose mean age was 10.8 years. Parental survey revealed that 49% of kids reported consuming sugar-sweetened beverages 2-3 times/day and 15.7% consuming it ≥4 times/day at home. Almost 14% kids consumed soda 2-3 times/day, 43.1% consumed soda 1-4 times/week and 33.3% never consumed soda. More than 45% kids consumed 100% juice and 65% kids drank plain water. Almost 71% children consumed sweets, 78% had salty snacks at least once a week, less than 30% had a serving of vegetable once a day and 15.7% never ate vegetable at home. Lesser than 14% had a serving of fruit once a day and 17.6% never ate fruit. Only more than a quarter of kids brushed their teeth more than once a day while 37.3% kids brushed it once a day.
30.8% children suffered from dental caries where the percentage decreased from 6-12 years and increased from 13-17 years. A 40 g/day increase in added sugar was associated with a 6.4% absolute increase in the proportion of carious tooth surface and a 24.2% relative increase in proportion of carious tooth surface. On an average, children consumed around 193 g of added sugar per day. It was observed that the children in the study consumed 16 times the maximum allowed daily sugar intake recommended for kids. Sugar-sweetened fruit drinks are the main source of added sugar among these kids where a major proportion of the beverage is consumed at home.
Parents can play a major role in helping kids reduce their consumption of such sugar-sweetened beverages. They should realize the importance of fresh fruit consumption and provide it as an alternative for these beverages. Kids should be exposed to fluorides in the form of toothpastes or water, a well-balanced diet regimen that includes minimal sugar-based foods and a healthy lifestyle must be followed to minimize the risk of dental caries in kids.
The Influence of Frequently Consumed Beverages & Snacks on Dental Erosion among Preschool Kids in Saudi Arabia: https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12937-017-0307-9
Association between Added Sugar Intake and Dental Caries in Children Using a Novel Hair Biomarker: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12903-015-0101-z
Sugar Rules the World & Ruins Teeth: https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2019/07/19/743500431/study-sugar-rules-the-world-and-ruins-teeth
Sugar-sweetened Beverages: General & Oral Health Hazards in Kids & Adolescents: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5030497/
AVOID FRAUD. EAT SMART
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