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Consensus Statement on Sugary Drinks

Sugary drinks are no longer a looming public health crisis, but a very real one. By working together, and acting now, we can prevent not only oral health damage, but obesity - a leading risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

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Oral Hygiene

Regular brushing helps remove the sticky film of bacteria, called plaque. If not cleaned thoroughly the bacteria in plaque can break down tooth enamel, which can cause cavities and gum disease. As your child gets older, they might want to brush their own teeth. It is important that you teach them the right way and assist your child until they are 8 or 9 years old.

  • Once your child is 6 years old start using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste
  • Make sure your child is not eating or swallowing toothpaste
  • Encourage them to spit the toothpaste out after brushing and not to rinse the mouth
  • Brush twice a day, morning and night, for two minutes and brushing last thing at night time before bed is very important
  • Hold the brush at 45 - degree angle to the gum line and brush gently by moving the brush back and forth in short, tooth-wide strokes
  • Make sure the child is  brushing the outer, inner and chewing surfaces of all the teeth in upper and lower jaws
  • Check your child's brush regularly and replace it every three months or soon after the bristles start to wear out 

Nutrition and Snacking

Families should remember that snacking in small amounts at regular intervals, and in addition to three meals, is important to ensure the child's energy and nutrient requirements are met. However frequent intake of sugary foods or drinks leads to frequent acid attacks and eventual loss of tooth enamel. Hence, it is important snack choices for young children are nutritious, non-sticky and low in sugar.

The Ministry of Health's Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Children Ages 2 - 12 Years recommends a single selection or combinations of foods from the below table for nutritionally and dentally appropriate snacks without the addition of extra sugar, fat or salt.

Breads and Cereals

Breads including whole wheat breads; crackers; rolls; toast; muffins, and loaves made with minimal amounts of sugar; and unsweetened dry cereals.

Fruits and Vegetables

Raw vegetable and fruit pieces; grated vegetables and salads; vegetable juices; fresh or unsweetened, frozen or canned fruit (in own juices).

Milk and Milk Products

Milk; yoghurt without added sugar; cheese; yoghurt or cottage cheese dips; cheese spreads.

Meat, seafood, chicken

Hard-cooked egg; cheese; pieces of lean meat or and chicken; tuna or salmon; peanut butter and other spreads made from pureed nuts, seeds and legumes.

For more ideas on healthy lunch boxes and creative snacking click on the links below

Eating for Healthy Children - Ministry of Health  

Loading up the Lunchbox - National Heart Foundation

Fissure Sealants

Sealants are a protective plastic coating applied to back teeth to prevent decay. The chewing surfaces of back teeth have small grooves or fissures which often extend right down into the tooth itself. These fissures are very difficult to clean thoroughly and can trap food particles. Fissure sealants can seal off these grooves, preventing any food particles or bacteria from getting in.

It's best to get advice from your dentist or dental therapist if your child would benefit from fissure sealing the permanent back molar teeth. The first molars usually come through between 6 and 7 years of age. If required the rest of the molars are usually sealed as soon as they appear which can be any time between 11 and 14 years.