170331_TSF_BlogHero_01If you’ve seen the film, you’ll remember Larry.

Larry grew up drinking multiple bottles of Mountain Dew each day. With 18 teaspoons of sugar in a 20 fl oz (591 ml) bottle,1 his teeth were eaten away, leaving Larry in pain and with the awful predicament of having teeth removed.

Not fun.

Worryingly, recent research out of the U.K. has found that children, some younger than 1 year of age, are visiting the dentist for tooth removals, and numbers are on the rise.

The Royal College of Surgeons analyzed data from NHS Digital which showed a 24% increase in tooth extractions in 0-4-year-olds over the past 10 years. 2

Between 2006/07 and 2015/16, 84,086 procedures were undertaken in this age group. In the last 2 years, there were over 34,000 tooth extractions in 0-9 year olds. This is higher than any decade previous.

A key culprit in more children having issues with their teeth?

Too much added sugar, including from sugar-sweetened beverages.

“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, “ said Professor Nigel Hunt, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons.

“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.”

Kids have no need for excessive amounts of sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages. The occasional treat is fine, but evidence like that in the study above implies children are having too much of the sweet stuff. Such practices hurt their teeth, causing pain that affects day-to-day activities, and encourages taste preferences and habits difficult to break later in life.

While no-one digs a dentist visit, check-ups are a good idea. And tooth decay and teeth removal can be prevented. If we can avoid the uncomfortable and often painful repair or removal of teeth, why wouldn’t we?

“Removal of teeth, especially in hospital under general anaesthetic, is not to be taken lightly,” said Professor Hunt. “There tends to be an attitude of “oh, they are only baby teeth” but in actual fact how teeth are looked after in childhood impacts oral health in adulthood. Baby teeth set the pattern for adult teeth, including tooth decay.”

Yendarra School in New Zealand has seen a reduction in dental decay in students following the adoption of a water-only policy on campus. Small changes like this can make a huge impact!

What can we do? According to Professor Hunt, 90% of tooth decay is preventable if we limit sugary drinks and foods high in added sugar, practice good dental hygiene, and make regular visits to the dentist.

So swap the sweet drinks for water, limit foods high in added sugar and get brushing!

By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med.)

 

References:

  1. Pepsico 2017, MTN Dew, viewed 29 March 2017, <http://www.pepsicobeveragefacts.com/Home/Product?formula=44316*01*01-07&form=RTD&size=20>
  2. Royal College of Surgeons 2017, Shocking 24% increase in tooth extractions performed on children aged 0-4 in last decade, [online] available at: <https://www.rcseng.ac.uk/news-and-events/media-centre/press-releases/child-tooth-extractions-24-per-cent/> [accessed 29 March 2017]