toothbrushingToothbrushing alone cannot protect children’s teeth from the damage caused by sugary food and drink snacks.

A study, published in the Journal of Public Health, found that snacking habits amongst under-fives have the most impact on their oral health, whilst relying on toothbrushing is not enough to prevent decay.

‘This research supports messages about snacking being unhealthy; last week it was revealed that 170 children underwent operations in England every day to have rotten teeth removed and this research confirms that snacking on sugary foods and drinks is the key contributing factor,’ Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, said.

‘It is clear that toothbrushing with a fluoride toothpaste alone is not the magic wand that many people still believe it to be and preventing tooth decay also has to involve changing diet and lifestyle.’

Brushing habits

Children who brush their teeth less than once a day by two had twice the chance of experiencing tooth decay at five years old.

The study also found that parental socioeconomic factors, such as education levels, plays an important factor on children’s chances of experiencing tooth decay as well.

‘Snacking throughout the day on sugary foods and drinks means that children’s teeth come under constant attack from acid and can quickly lead to severe problems,’ Dr Nigel Carter continued.

Children’s snacking should be limited to no more than two a day and unhealthy sugary snacks should be replaced with healthier foods such as fruit and vegetables.

‘Even though a child’s first set of teeth is temporary, the oral health behaviour children learn early on they take into the rest of their lives, so it is vital that they get into good habits as early as possible.’