Refined starches linked to tooth decay in children

Refined starches linked to tooth decay in children

White bread and noodles are ranked highly alongside cereals and soft-drinks as the main causes of tooth decay in children, a new study has shown. The study’s lead author Dr Simon Thornley said many people were unaware that “frequently consuming foods such as white bread, rice and noodles could put children at greater risk of dental caries."

The research was conducted by Starship Children’s Hospital and The University of Auckland, New Zealand, and looked at dental records and eating habits of over 4000 children. It found foods high in sugar and high in refined starches caused cavities and decay.

The study’s lead author Dr Simon Thornley said diet was found to be the strongest link with the likelihood of dental caries. "The key culprits were foods that were high in sugar and high in refined starches. This information should inform our oral health promotion work in this country because many people would not be aware that frequently consuming foods such as white bread, rice and noodles could put children at greater risk of dental caries."

Dr Thornley said some foods were associated with a lower number of cavities, including wholemeal or whole wheat bread, some vegetables and cheese. "It’s positive to learn that three-quarters of children studied had no dental caries at their first community dental appointment, but ethnicity and socio-economic status were strongly associated with dental outcomes. Pacific children were four times more likely to have four or more dental caries at their first community dental appointment, while Asian and Māori children were twice as likely to have four or more dental caries at their first appointment," he said.

A paediatric dentist at Starship Children’s Hospital, Dr Katie Bach, said thousands of children faced hospital treatment every year because of tooth decay. She said: “Dental caries is the leading cause of avoidable hospital treatment for children in this country and action is needed to ensure that children do not have to endure potentially invasive oral surgery.”

Thornley said some foods were associated with a lower number of dental caries, including frequent intake of wholemeal or whole wheat bread, vegetables from the brassica family such as broccoli, and cheese. The study authors note that behaviours associated with fewer dental caries included brushing teeth more regularly, parental help with tooth brushing and brushing teeth after a snack or a drink.

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