Your kids’ teeth are at risk, with one-third of South Africa’s younger demographic displaying signs of enamel erosion. As we observe National Oral Health Month, a worrying trend is clear. More children are consuming sour candies, diet sodas, and energy drinks, causing severe and permanent damage to their teeth.
Sour candies might delight the taste buds, but recent studies equate their pH levels to corrosive chemicals, resulting in negative effects on dental enamel. Similarly, energy drinks brimming with caffeine are highly acidic, with pH levels between 1.5 and 3.3.
In developed nations, dental erosion afflicts between 20% and 45% of the population. The situation is worse in South Africa, with 15% of younger demographics displaying severe dental erosion, which has progressed to exposed dentin, leaving teeth defenceless against further decay and potential loss.
A recent systematic review from 2023 unveils that an “increase in the intake of juices and low pH carbonated beverages correlates with a pronounced hike in the prevalence of dental erosion. This prevalence varies in children from 56% to 85% of those who indulge in soft drinks daily”.
After a rewarding international 32-year stint across London, San Diego, and Perth, Dr. Clifford Yudelman voices his concern.
“As a dental practitioner, I’ve never witnessed a surge akin to this, particularly in our youth. The high acidity levels in these trendy consumables erode the foundation of our youth’s oral future.”
Dr. Yudelman, Principal Dentist at OptiSmile, further emphasises the gravity of the situation.
“The escalating acidity levels in these consumables are rapidly eroding our youth’s dental future, and time is running out for intervention.”
Top Tips For Prevention Of Dental Erosion
OptiSmile and Dr. Clifford Yudelman recommend the following advice.
- A Balanced Diet: Prioritise a healthy, well-balanced diet. Not only does this benefit overall health, but it also reduces the intake of harmful, erosive substances. Opt to eat fruit instead of drinking fruit juice, and when you do, have it during mealtimes rather than as a snack.
- Limit Acidic Consumption: It’s essential to curtail the frequency of acidic food and drink consumption. Don’t let acidic substances linger in the mouth. Opt for water over soft drinks and juices. For those keen on vitamin C, choose supplements that can be swallowed whole, avoiding the chewable variety.
- Promote Saliva Flow: Saliva acts as a natural barrier against erosion. Encourage older children to use sugar-free chewing gum post-meals to boost saliva production.
- Education and Awareness: As parents, it’s crucial to guide children, highlighting the dangers of acidic sour candies, diet sodas, and energy drinks.
- Proactive Dental Care: Early detection can prevent long-term damage. Regular dental check-ups are crucial. Remember, when brushing, use a soft-bristled toothbrush with fluoride toothpaste and employ a gentle but thorough technique.
- Night-time Precautions: For children who grind their teeth during sleep, consider a night-guard.
As we reflect on the essence of National Oral Health Month, it’s paramount to realise that our children’s dental health isn’t just about a glowing smile today; it’s a testament to their lifelong well-being. The steps we take now to educate, protect, and encourage our youth towards better oral health practices can save them from irreversible damage in the future. Dr. Yudelman’s warning is not merely a professional observation; it’s a call for action.
Let’s unite as parents, educators, and communities to steer our youth towards a healthier, brighter dental future. With awareness and collective effort, we can ensure that children’s smiles remain radiant, resilient, and free from dental erosion.