Toothbrushing is not a magic wand!

New research has revealed that tooth brushing alone is not enough to protect children from tooth decay caused by snacking on sugary foods and drink.

The study, published in the Journal of Public Health, looked at nearly 4,000 pre-school children and discovered that snacking habits are the behaviour most strongly associated with dental decay

Researchers found under-five’s who snack throughout the day, compared to eating just at meal times, are far more likely to have signs of dental decay and that relying on tooth brushing alone to prevent it is not enough.

Dr Nigel Carter, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation commented: “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.

“It is clear that tooth brushing 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.

“Almost every single one of these operations, and the pain and suffering associated with them, could have been prevented with effective behaviour changes to help protect children’s oral health.

“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.

“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.

The Change4Life Food Scanner mobile app is a great way of helping to achieve this.

“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.”

Dental decay happens when the enamel and dentine of a tooth become softened by acid attacks after eating or drinking anything containing sugars. Over time, the acid makes a cavity (hole) in the tooth. ‘Dental decay’ is the same as tooth decay and is also known as ‘dental caries’.

The study also identified that children who brushed less than once per day, or not at all at age two, had twice the chance of having dental decay at age five compared with children who brushed their teeth twice per day or more often.