Watch out for the Sugar Bandit this Easter!

2 April 2015

While many Australians are looking forward to a visit from the Easter Bunny, little attention is given to the Sugar Bandit over Easter (Friday 3 April -- Monday 6 April).

Recent research says that tooth decay in children is rising, with over half of six year olds experiencing tooth decay in their baby teeth. Almost half of 12 year olds have experienced decay in their permanent teeth. This is particularly alarming because tooth decay is entirely preventable.

Chair of the Australian Dental Association (ADA)'s Oral Health Committee, Dr Peter Alldritt, said, "Children with tooth decay have a greater risk of developing dental disease later in life. One simple way to reduce this risk is to encourage children to consume sugary foods in moderation".

The ADA is again using the theme of the Sugar Bandit as a way to educate parents and children about the risks of sugary food, and in particular how certain eating habits place oral health at risk.

"Easter should be a happy time when families are together and having fun. We don't have to place all the emphasis on sweets -- this sends an inappropriate message to children and can establish unhealthy dietary habits", Dr Alldritt said.

Dr Alldritt continued, "We urge Australians to be aware of how the Sugar Bandit can hide in snacks that are marketed as 'healthy'. Many of these snacks are actually high in sugar and get stuck in children's teeth, leading to acid attacks which cause decay".

Some of the major 'healthy' snack tricks the Sugar Bandit offers are: dried fruit, biscuits (sweet and savoury), fruit juice, muesli bars, crackers, breakfast cereals, flavoured milk, sweetened yoghurt, fruit bars, fruit slice, flavoured popcorn, canned fruit, baked goods and banana bread.

Other ways to keep the Sugar Bandit under control this Easter are to:
  • Have a sugar break the week before and the week after Easter, just to offset the sugar hits;
  • Try to restrict sweet treats to meal times, rather than snacking on them between meals;
  • Ensure children do not snack on sugary treats over a long period of time, as this prolongs the length of time that teeth are exposed to acid attacks;
  • Ensure children brush their teeth well twice a day -- don't skip the important bedtime brushing;and
  • Give children attractive alternatives such as toys, books or games -- there are many other ways to have fun during Easter that do not involve sweets.
"We never see the Easter Bunny with tooth decay. Let's make sure our children don't have tooth decay either", Dr Alldritt concluded.
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