In our practice, we believe in focusing on prevention for oral health, and in the run up to Easter, we decided to highlight the shocking facts about the amount of sugar in the chocolate products, particularly to those marketed to children.
We posted a picture of our board on Facebook, and we were amazed by the positive response it got. It's now reached thousands of people, and we really hope it has made people think twice about what they are giving to their children.
We picked out some of the more popular Easter products on the market, and have highlighted in bags the amount of sugar contained in each.
It's quite sobering, when you see it laid out so graphically.
For example, a Cadbury's Dairy Milk Buttons small Easter egg has 48g of sugar in it, and a Lindt medium gold bunny has a whopping 110g.
Public Health England guidance recommends that children aged 4 to 10 years should eat no more than the equivalent of 5 to 6 cubes of sugar each day, but data shows children are consuming, on average 13 cubes.
As Sandra Whyte, National Lead for Dental Public Health at PHE recently pointed out some five-year olds are consuming the equivalent to their body weight in sugar each year!
It's clear that people are shocked when they realise how much sugar these items actually contain.
It concerns me that these treats are often purchased for children. In reality, it's not the chocolate we love, but it's the sugar inside that we crave. There's actually very little cocoa in many of these products.
Many children today receive several eggs, from parents, grandparents, other relatives, friends. We don't want to be the grinch and spoil everyone's fun, but we want people to be aware of what's in these products and harm it can do to your body, and how to sensibly limit that harm.
With teeth, we have to remember that it's the frequency as well as the amount of sugar in products that can affect their oral health.
We also cannot ignore the effects that eating these products has on the rest of the body – obesity and diabetes are growing problems for people in our society and having an impact on NHS resources.
We know that tooth decay is entirely preventable. And yet, tooth decay is the number one reason for hospital admissions for younger children, who have to undergo a general anaesthetic to have teeth out. We know it can be prevented.
We hope that some of our patients will change their behaviour after seeing our board, and limit the amount of Easter products their children are consuming.
We know that others will not. For this group, we need better oral health prevention messages, being given in a joined-up and sustained way, so that people have better awareness of the impact of sugar on teeth, and how to ensure prevention.
Many people still seem to be unaware that check-ups and treatment for children are free on the NHS, and so don't attend regularly. We need to change that perception.
We also need our society to get to the stage where it's recognised that these products have unacceptable levels of sugar, the way we look at E numbers and tobacco.
We've had some success in getting the sugar tax (levy) on soft drinks implemented in the UK, to force manufacturers to lower the amounts of sugar in fizzy drinks. It would be great to see the same kind of approach taken for products marketed to children, like these Easter eggs.
When it's laid out like this, how can we honestly see these products and think, "Yes, it's ok to give that to my children."
Naomi Portelli, Dentist
Sugar and children's oral health
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