For many, most often children, the festive periods : birthdays, Easter, Christmas, and many holidays offers the opportunity to jolly, celebrate, indulge in food, drinks and all forms of merriment.
Similarly for adults it may the Valentine lover’s day, birthdays, wedding celebration or some memorable anniversary, whatever the occasion is the opportunity for some cravings and indulgence looms and easily is taken
The average child is full of excitement and anticipation of goody bags filled with traditional gifts such as toys; play station, computer games etc. The goodies that are of interest when it relates to oral health are the group of confectionery cake, biscuits sweet, chocolates and whatever sugar laden treat are available. Fizzy drinks and all forms of compounded sugar laden fruit juices are not excluded.
This often warms the heart of the kids to the parents and guardians, all ill feelings or animosities are quickly forgiven and forgotten. This ploy in due course has a draw- back , it could result in a nightmare for the teeth of the children, whatever the culprit sweets , chewing gum, biscuits , chocolates, the damage to the teeth is just about the same, it causes tooth decay (dental caries)
Dental caries as evidenced based research has shown is having a component of diet in it, the diet is the refined carbohydrates. The sugar in the confectionery, fall in this group of sugar.
The sugar consumption per se is not the critical point, it is more how often these are consumed, and that is the concern
If we could have a little thought for how much of these sugar laden treats , sweet, chocolates , biscuits we and the children consumed over the festive periods compared to those consumed at other periods of the year the point starts to be understood. There is a group of parents who reward children with these treats for good behaviour or use it as a means of cajoling the children to behave, such as “If you do your homework I will buy you sweet”, “If you don’t stop crying I will not buy you sweet or ice cream”.
Tooth decay results from the action of bacteria nominally resident and present in the mouth on the sugar substance or carbohydrate, leading to the production of acid, this acid , for example lactic acid , dissolves (de-mineralisation), the hard outer part coating the teeth , called enamel. This is the initiation of decay which can progress to the inner parts of the teeth not visible eventually leading to pain if it is not treated.
Aggressive marketing by the super- market chains by packing the treat at the check -out counter where it is most visible to children, this strategy is used with cigarettes too. Marketing these treat so close to school premises or at meal times by food vendors. Advertising targeting the viewing public with sponsorship by confectionery companies during cartoon programs and school parties and a lot of sponsored competition. I am looking forward to legislation like that compelling cigarettes to carry a warning label or the drink aware program of alcohol. What about “Sweets Can Damage Teeth On Each Package Of Confectionery”. This will be a good gesture from the confectionery manufacturers, the dentist is not trying to antagonise their existence or business, and it is just that one expects ethical business and a duty of care.
Where it is virtually impossible to do without the consumption of treats, as habits die hard, the treats are best consumed at meal times or straight away after meals.
Fizzy drinks and sugar laden fruit juices, chocolate drinks can be diluted with about seven to ten parts of water to one part of the fizzy drinks or juice, This is due to the fact that most fizzy drinks are acidic themselves and diluting them will reduce the acidity further making them less acidic.
Teeth do not like acidic substances, saliva is basic and helps neutralise acidic substances that may affect the teeth.
The Holy Grail is the moderation in the consumption of these food substances and fizzy drinks during the festive periods.
What will be the alternative to the treats at festive period?
The festive stockings, gift boxes can be filled with these items rather than the traditional chocolates, sweets, cakes, etc.
• Character branded toothbrushes like Ben 10, Avengers etc, this has a potential of the routine of cleaning the teeth more appealing to the children without them making any fuss.
• Sugar free sweets and chocolate , some confectionery have been replaced with sugar alternatives like xylitol, these are actually good as they help stimulate the production of saliva and cleanses the mouth of any acid.
• Making smaller gift boxes and packages in which case the quantity of treat they can contain will be minimal and smaller than when the boxes are larger than life.
• Unsalted peanuts, walnuts, monkey nuts which are really good for the bones and the teeth, the nuts may not taste as delightful as sweets, crisps they are better health alternatives.
• Cheese boards, cheese curls, cheese snacks. Cheese is a beneficial food type; it helps return the mouth to the natural acid-base balance which is slightly basic. This reduces the chances of tooth decay.
• Fruit bits, carrots, apples, and banana, freeze dried and not coated with sugar.