Uh Oh ! Here comes Halloween

 

Where am I to start? Well, for most of you out there who don’t know me, I’m Padma, a dentist from India and the Practice Manager in Dublin 18 Dental Rooms. I am a mother of one brilliant and hyperactive boy, a full time job by itself, keeping him occupied and entertained. I can hear all you mums out there saying, “We know how you feel!”
I wanted to write a blog about our kids and dental health. Wait!! ..Don’t close the page yet!! It won’t be too scientific. When I was thinking of writing something, the topic that first came to mind was “Sugar Taxes for 2018”. Topics like this are always controversial, debatable and sensitive. So let’s leave the tax aside and just talk about sugars.

As you know sugar and tooth decay go hand in hand. As a mother, we always care for our children. We care for their health, wellbeing and future. We teach them what is good or bad. We show them a path and we guide them. At the same time we are notorious for pampering them and spoiling them. It’s easy to allow too many sugars when they ask, because we can’t see those cute little faces becoming dull and upset, but we should try to change and control the type of food that we and our family eat!! So let’s learn more about it.
Sugar is one of the most important dietary issues that we should keep an eye on. Sugar has been in the media spotlight quite a bit in recent times because of the growing obesity epidemic. I won’t try to echo that message here. What I want to highlight is the significance to the health of our teeth. Tooth decay is caused when you mix sugar and plaque bacteria. All sugars ….. (Sucrose in sweets …. Fructose in fruit …. Lactose in milk ….. Maltose in starch…) Can be a problem. So what can we do???

Firstly ….. Know that not all sugars are created equal! But more on that later.

As far as teeth are concerned, it’s not that important what quantity of sugar that our kids eat, it is all about the frequency of intake. Reducing sugar in the cereal from 2 spoonful’s to one spoonful will not help. Restricting little John to a ½ glass of a fizzy drink instead of the usual full glass will not help. Having the willpower to stop after 1 or 2 squares of dairy milk chocolate will not help!
You see, ANY small amount of sugar absorbed by the plaque bacteria will mean that there will be acid production in the mouth. Eventually, after up to an hour, your saliva will neutralize the acids and prevent further damage. A similar amount of damage is caused by eating a whole bar of chocolate as by eating just one square. The worst mistake is to spread out the treats over time!

As we know, sugars are notoriously addictive. Once you have them, then your blood sugar peaks followed by a rebound “sugar low.” So you start to crave for more. It becomes an obsession. It’s becomes a vicious cycle. We therefore tend to favour frequent snacks. As far as teeth are concerned, it’s actually better to Binge and be done with it in one go!
Well, now I am going to give you my Secret to Success for our families.

The Shopping Basket!!
Yes, you read that right… Try to fill the shopping basket with foods which do not have added sugars. Such high glycaemic index foods cause spikes and troughs in blood sugar levels. Read the labels… there are lots of foods with hidden sugar! I know it is easier said than done. There will be protests! But if it’s in the house, it will be found! Stick to your guns and believe it or not, hunger will gradually bring a change in dietary habits. It may take a couple of weeks of enduring complaints but it will pay off. It is true that all of the foods that are classified as “carbohydrates” have some form of sugar and as such can contribute to decay but the right kinds of carbohydrates release their sugars more gradually and thus do not cause such blood sugar peaks and troughs and resulting cravings! Therefore there will be less tendency to snack and graze throughout the day and ultimately less decay!!!
Bright healthy smiles for all the family! Yippee!

Now, I know that it is almost impossible to prevent our kids from having sweets. Neither do we want to be the home that our children’s friends do not want to visit because it’s a no treat home! But we must still restrict easy access to those sugars. Maybe have just one day a week as a Treat Day! Or better still, bring the children out to the shop for a treat. Just try not to have treats in the house. It’s too easy to give in to the demands. Anything for an easier life!!! But it’s only easier in the short term.

What about brushing?
Well yes, it can help. The less plaque, the less acid. But no one manages to get an A+ for brushing every day! Restricting sugar exposure is far more beneficial.
What about chewing gum?
Yes! Sugar free gum stimulates more saliva. And it’s the saliva that can neutralize the acid so the damage can be reduced. But the chewing gum is only beneficial immediately after eating sugars especially during that initial 20 minutes.

Halloween is fast approaching and our homes are going to be loaded with those processed sugars. It’s not realistic to expect abstinence! Just keep in mind that it is the frequency that matters. Let them enjoy it but do not allow them to graze on sweets for several days. The excessive abundance needs to be controlled. Stick to your one treat day each week.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Other parents will admire the lead and the example you set. We need to change our attitudes to the high sugar diets of modern life. Healthy bodies and healthy smiles depend on it.

Good food. Better health. Best life. Or in the dental world we say it as… “Less sugar… better teeth… best smile”
If in doubt, you know where we are. Happy Halloween!

Padma Shunmuganathan