Dental Health Week - Who is the sugar Bandit?

Dental Health Week
4-10 August 2014

Dental Health Week is an initiative of the Australian Dental Association to help raise awareness of the dental issues that Australians face. This year the campaign focuses on the oral health of babies and toddlers with a specific focus on the effects of sugar.

The facts about sugar 
  • Consumption of high levels of Sugary foods and drinks is believed to be the number 1 cause of tooth decay
  • Australians consume more than double the world’s average (17tsp per person per day) of sugar
  • 33% of Australian parents allow their children to consume soft drink, fruit juice and energy drinks 4 or more times per week
              • Fruit juice and soft drinks have a similar level of sugar!! So excessive consumption of fruit juice can also be implicated in diabetes, tooth decay and obesity!!

Credit: Australian Dental Association Inc via website

Are your kids being spoilt rotten?

Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease affecting our children. It is completely preventable with proper oral hygiene and limited consumption of sugar. Dental decay occurs when our teeth are exposed to acid for extended periods of time resulting in cavities developing. This acid is naturally produced when we eat and it has been found that sugar is the number one cause of decay as sugary foods tend to get stuck in their teeth resulting in numerous acid attacks.

Unfortunately, many foods that are advertised or believed to be ‘healthy’ snacks can actually be quite high in sugar content, for example fruit bars, canned fruit and children’s cereal. When choosing snacks for kids it is important to look at the nutritional label and check how much sugar is in it. It is ok for these foods to still be enjoyed but it is best if only eaten in moderation, for their dental health and overall health and. well-being1.

Sugar is not the whole equation as there are so many contributors, but Australians (as does most of the "western world") easily gets too much sugar, so reducing intake will help reduce many health risks, including teeth.

Oral Hygiene Guidelines for Little Ones

Taking care of your child's pearly whites from the moment they appear is the best way to help prevent dental decay which is seen in more than 48% of Australian kids aged five years old.

Bub’s first teeth
  • Use a toothbrush with a small head and rounded soft bristles to brush their teeth twice a day, using only plain water
  • After 18 months of age, continue to brush their teeth twice a day but use a tiny amount of low-fluoride toothpaste. Encourage your little one to spit out after brushing.

  • At the age of 4-5 your child will be able to brush their teeth on their own. It is important you continue to assist them as it is not until about 8 years old that their dexterity allows them to clean them well.

Brushing Technique
  • Position yourself and your child so that you can easily see in their mouth. For example, stand them in front of you with their head slightly tilted back
  • In small gentle circles clean the front surface of their teeth
  • For the back teeth use a back and forth motion for the biting and grinding surfaces
  • Pay special attention to the gum line
  • You should aim to brush their teeth for 2 minutes twice a day
  • Don’t forget to floss either

At first, your child may find this difficult to tolerate but be patient, with time they will adapt to it. You may find it useful to make the experience of cleaning their teeth fun, you could play a favourite song or sing a nursery rhyme, offer a reward (not the sweet kind!) such as a cuddle after a 2 minute teeth cleaning session and encourage them to practice good oral hygiene by setting an example. 2

My son loves being upside down, but hates cleaning his teeth. So we made a game and combined the two. Now he is much more tolerant of the toothbrush (he still complains, but we get the job done).

WARNING: The family dentist mentioned be careful not to brush soon after eating otherwise the toothpaste can coat the particles and lock the acids under the "protective coating" and speed up decay. Best to give it 20 minutes and rinse the mouth before brushing.

Checking for Decay
  • Lift up their top lip and roll down their lower lip
  • If you see white patches on the teeth near the gums this is an early indication of tooth decay
  • If you notice grey, brown or black spots any where on the teeth book in to have them checked with your dentist
  • Other signs include complaints of a sore tooth, waking regularly in the night or if they regularly have bad breath3

Water is one essential part of the healthy teeth. Water is important for the body to maintain the acid balance and eliminate excess acids.  Water also directly dilutes the acids in the mouth so it is good to drink and swish the mouth out before brushing.      

Beware replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners: They may have less impact on teeth but they are implicated in metabolic disorders, weight gain and other toxic side effects when consumed in high amounts.

Acupuncture for Dental Health

Acupuncture is the most long standing health care system in the world, dating back at least 2000 years. For more information about acupuncture and what it can be used to treat click here.

The World Health Organisation recognises that acupuncture may assist in managing the toothache, post extraction pain and gingivitis. It is not a replacement for the expert advice of dentists, but may help assist in the symptoms of pain.

Recent studies have also shown that some herbs used as a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine may help protect teeth and gums. One particular ingredient has proven antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties which can help prevent tooth loss as a result of infection and inflammation of the supporting structures of the teeth.5

Chinese Medicine doesn't deal so much with the surface of the surface of the teeth (that is your Dentist's domain), but is focused on ensuring your body nourishes, supplies and protects the teeth from the inside.  Things like balancing the function of the saliva and keeping the bodies natural acid control mechanisms working may help a lot. These are things that may be overlooked by other fields.

Osteopathy for Dental Health
Many people aren’t aware that manipulations of the jaw, neck and surrounding areas may help treat some dental ailments. For example, a toothache may actually stem from the upper part of the neck, causing the nerves in the face to be over-stimulated and irritated.

Healthy teeth and gums require the correct alignment of the jaw. Malocclusion (misaligned jaw bones) can be a result of many events, including the birthing process and direct trauma such as a knock to the chin. Even having work done by a dentist can result in this problem as our mouths are not designed to be forced open for extended periods of time.

Misaligned jaws can result in the following issues
  • Heavily worn teeth
  • Teeth that are not straight in the
  • Broken teeth or fillings
  • Credit: Giuliamar via pixabay
    Clenching or grinding the teeth particularly at night
  • Headaches and jaw aches

If left untreated, orthodontic or orthopedic work may be needed, this can be expensive and traumatic to the body. Your Osteopath may help reduce the likelihood of malocclusion, which may help ensure optimal dental health.6

To maintain dental health or treat existing dental issues book in to see our Acupuncturist or Osteopath by calling 8346-3495.

1. Australian Dental Association Inc. (2014). Get ready to catch the sugar bandit in your family

2. Gymbaroo (2014). Taking care of baby’s ‘pearly whites’. First Steps, issue 83

3. Australian Dental Association Inc (n.d.) Tooth Decay: Does your child have this disease?

4. Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association (2014). Acupuncture

5. Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association (2014). Traditional chinese herb protects teeth and gums

6. Dr Farid Shodjaee (2004). Osteopathy and Dentistry