TORONTO – While Canadian pediatric dentists wage a war against tooth decay in kids’ teeth, British officials are pointing a finger at sugary fruit juices as the culprit.
On Monday, the Royal College of Surgeons in the United Kingdom warned parents that feeding children large amounts of juice, in an attempt to make kids eat more fruits, is damaging teeth.
The effects could even be long-lasting – in the U.K., half of five-year-olds already had signs of wear to their tooth enamel.
The situation isn’t any better in Canada, according to Toronto-based pediatric dentist, Dr. Elliott Schwartz, who has worked on kids’ teeth since 1977.
“There are so many kids that need dental treatment – and they’re young kids about 2 ½ to three years old with just rotten teeth. It’s skyrocketing. It’s an epidemic in North America,” he told Global News.
British advice suggests parents should only give their kids one glass of juice a day and warns that blending or juicing releases sugars and is worse for teeth if consumed regularly.
Schools, daycares and parents should stick to milk and water for kids, the Royal College notes.
Schwartz says that bacteria on teeth, paired with sugar can lead to cavities.
“Fruit juice is acid to begin with. If you’re willing to give your child a soft drink, then you can give them fruit juice. It’s the same stuff – one’s got natural sugar in it and one’s got manufactured sugar but it’s the same thing on the teeth,” he said.
His days are booked with performing surgery on kids’ teeth to repair damage. Babies’ teeth can grow in as early as six months, and he has treated infants as young as nine months old.
Under Canadian Paediatric Society guidelines, which are the same as its U.S. counterpart association, parents should bring their kids into the dentist’s office for the first visit when an infant turns one.
This measure could stop potential cavities in their tracks, Schwartz said, noting that the initial visit isn’t about scanning for cavities but teaching parents about oral care for toddlers.
“I have seen children with all 20 of their teeth decayed and it’s so sad. Tooth decay is a disease, it’s preventable,” he said.
While there aren’t concrete numbers to illustrate how quickly the tooth decay in children is growing, The Canadian Dental Association says that Early Childhood Caries – also known as tooth decay – is the most common childhood disease.
Dental surgery for rotting teeth is the most common surgery procedure in pediatric hospitals across Canada and in 2009, more than 17,000 kids waited longer for surgery than medical experts recommended.
Tooth decay can lead to chronic pain, interfering with how kids eat, sleep and grow, tooth loss and compromising general health, the CDA says.
The Canadian Paediatric Society and Schwartz offered these tips for parents:
– From birth to 12 months, wipe your baby’s gums with a soft, clean, damp cloth twice a day
– Once teeth appear, clean them at least once daily (usually at bedtime) with a soft bristle toothbrush designed for babies
– After six months, introduce a sippy cup for water and formula. Try to avoid juice or limit it to no more than 60 to 120 mL a day in a cup instead of a bottle
– Once your child is a toddler, encourage “2 for 2” which means brushing twice a day for two minutes each time
– Use adult toothpaste with fluoride and use an amount the size of a grain of rice if your child can’t spit
– Visits to the dentist should be about six months apart