The Problem of Tooth Decay in Kids School Lunchboxes
The daily school lunch box is proving to be a prime culprit for children’s tooth decay. Worrying stats reveal that a staggering number of kids are being sent to hospital for preventable dental conditions.
A recent news report from the Sydney Morning Herald shows that more than 100 children a week are having multiple rotting teeth extracted, filled and capped under general anaesthetic in NSW hospitals! In Victoria, around 2,700 children aged 0-6 years are hospitalised each year for preventable dental conditions — most of them for dental decay with treatment under general anaesthetic.
Our dentists at Whitehorse Dental are deeply concerned by the sheer number of extreme dental cases that result in hospitalisation, especially considering that tooth decay is completely preventable.
With our dental practice and philosophy rooted in Preventative Dentistry, we chat to a lot of parents and kids everyday about daily dental habits. We’ve recognised that one oft-looked over area of dental care for kids, is the humble lunch box.
When we pack our children’s lunch boxes, there’s a number of things a busy parent thinks about. Is it healthy? Will they eat it? Do I have time to pack this? Will it last in their schoolbag? It’s a hard job packing daily food that’s nutritional, delicious and portable for your child!
Unfortunately for us, many foods touted as healthy, tasty and convenient for kids, are creating a perfect storm of tooth decay for kids.
Hidden Sugar in Deceptive Food Marketing
Food labelling plays a very deceptive role in the causation of tooth decay in kids. Many packaged foods with taglines that claim to be “all natural” and “low in fat” actually contain a very high sugar content. Hidden sugar is EVERYWHERE!
We’re well aware that lollies and sweets are bad for kids teeth, but many busy parents don’t recognise the hidden high quantities of sugar found in pre-packaged foods. Particularly those that are marketed as “healthy”, such as muesli bars, flavoured yogurt and dried fruits.
Dried fruits are a great example of a seemingly healthy food that is actually terrible for teeth. Because all the water content has been taken out of the fruit, it’s easy for kids to eat lots of them and subsequently over-consume sugar. A snack bag of banana chips may be equal to 5 fresh bananas. A small 40g box of sultanas may have an equivalent of 100 fresh grapes in it…that’s 6 teaspoons of sugar in one tiny box! Even an adult would be hard pressed to eat 100 grapes in one sitting. This is simply too much fruit sugar for children’s teeth to handle.
These pre-packaged snacks are so convenient and marketed to us as being “healthy”. They tend to make an everyday appearance in our children’s lunchboxes without us ever thinking twice to their ramifications.
This daily bombardment of high sugars from pre-packaged food is just too much for young kids’ growing teeth, and we’re seeing it result in abnormally high rates of tooth decay in Australia.
What’s in a Teeth-Healthy Lunch Box?
We can understand that parents are busy! Packing those lunchboxes everyday between all of life’s other necessities is hard work. Sometimes it’s necessary to reach for those muesli bars or snack boxes of dried fruits. However, we’d like to encourage them to be seen as a special treat or emergency snacks when you need them, rather than an everyday lunchbox item.
As an easy rule of thumb: omit as much pre-packaged snacks as possible. Pack fresh food and vegetables where you can into your child’s daily lunch box.
To create a teeth-healthy daily lunch box for your children, here’s what we recommend:
|Lunch Box Foods to Avoid||Teeth-Healthy Lunch Box Food|
|Dried fruits e.g. sultanas, banana chips||1 piece of fresh fruit e.g. apple, nectarine|
|Muesli bars||Small bag of nuts e.g. almonds|
|Fruit rollups/bars||Cut Vegetables with Dip eg. cut carrots with beetroot dip|
|Oat slices with yogurt tops||Crisp bread with cheese and tomato|
|Flavoured yogurt||Greek or plain yogurt|
|White bread sandwiches||Wholemeal bread sandwiches|
|Jam or marmalade sandwich||Chicken and salad wrap|
|Biscuits||Bag of cherry tomatoes|
|Bottle of Fruit juice or juice box e.g orange juice||Bottle of water|
To read more, check out this in-depth article from the Sydney Morning Herald. It offers great tips on how to pack a healthy, teeth-friendly lunch box for your children.