Tooth Friendly Drinks and Snacks

Choosing tooth friendly drinks and snacks can help to reduce children’s risk of oral health problems, such as tooth decay and gum disease. Up to 90% of tooth decay can be prevented by reducing the amount of sugar we eat, through regular tooth brushing and regular visits to the dentist. However, almost 25% of 5 years old’s in the UK have tooth decay!

Dental Caries Example

How to choose tooth friendly drinks

  • Water and milk are the only tooth friendly drinks. Remember that the Eat Better Start Better (EBSB) guidelines state that your early years setting should only offer milk and water to children
  • If offering any milk alternatives, such as pea milk or soya milk, choose those that are unsweetened and calcium fortified
  • Avoid serving sugary drinks such as fizzy drinks, juice drinks and squash which can cause tooth decay
  • Even if soft drinks are sugar- free, they are still usually very acidic, meaning they can still damage the tooth enamel, so it’s best to avoid these
  • While 100% pure fruit juice and fruit based smoothies count towards one portion of the 5- a- day recommendation, we receive limited nutrients from juice alone. They also contain free sugars* which can increase the risk of tooth decay. Therefore, children and adults should have no more than one 150ml glass a day. If families choose to offer their children under 5 fruit juice at home, it’s best that they dilute it with water- 1 part juice with 10 parts water and offer it in a cup, rather than a bottle or non- spill beaker 
  • For children who are bottle fed, they should only be offered their milk and water in the bottle. From six months of age, around the time they’re introduced to solid foods, an open-top cup can be introduced for them to drink water from
  • Expressed breast milk and formula milk can be offered in a bottle up until the age of one yer. However, by 12 months families should move towards stopping the bottle altogether. Babies should be drinking from an open cup or free-flow cup as this helps them learn to sip rather than suck drinks (which is better for their teeth!).

You can find out more information on Choosing Cups for babies in our blog ‘Choosing a Cup for Your Baby’ (opens in new tab)

*Free Sugars are all sugars that are added to products, plus naturally occurring sugars in fruit purees, juices and pastes. These naturally occurring sugars are included because the structure of the cell has been broken down during processing and ‘freeing’ the sugar from the plant cell wall.

Nursery water station

Slush-Ice Drinks

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) (opens in new tab) have issued new guidelines advising that children aged four years of age and under, should not be served slush-ice drinks. This guidance has been issued due to their glycerol (sugar-substitute) content.

Young children may suffer from headaches or sickness caused by exposure to glycerol.  Children under the age of 10 years, should not be offered free refills.

While glycerol is found in some other foods, it’s added at much lower quantities than in slush ice drinks.

Four slush-ice drinks in plastic cups with straws. They are coloured orange, green, blue, yellow

How to choose tooth friendly snacks

  • Try to avoid letting children graze on foods throughout the day, have a good meal and snack routine in place- three main meals and two to three nutritious snacks each day
  • Limit dried fruit to mealtimes only and avoid offering them at snack times. Dried fruits are very sticky and can stick to the teeth for a long time, increasing the risk of tooth decay. Offering them with other foods at main meals will help to protect teeth
  • Commercial fruit snacks, baby fruit purées, cereal bars and fruit leathers all contain sugars which can damage teeth and should be avoided at snack times
  • Swap fruit flavoured and chocolate yoghurts for plain, Greek or natural yoghurt and add fruit for extra flavour
  • Check the food labels of common snacks foods as you might be surprised about the amount of sugar they contains. For example flavoured water, fruits tinned in syrup, some breakfast cereals, ready- made sauces such as pasta sauce, marinades and condiments such as ketchup.

For more information on snacks, check out our popular blog on planning snacks here (opens in new tab)!

Snack Swap Ideas: Cereal Bar - Plain rice cake with cream cheese and blackberries. Muffin - English muffin with smooth nut butter and orange segments. Doughnut - Scotch pancakes with banana and strawberries. Fruit flavoured yoghurts - Plain yoghury, greek yoghurt, natural yoghurt, unsweetened alternative yoghurt - Toppings berries e.g. strawberry, blueberry, raspberry. Banana. Mango. Pineapple. Rhubarb. Grated apple. Kiwi. Plum. Melon.

How to promote good oral health in your setting

Display Boards- create an eye-catching display to promote the importance of good oral health for children and adults and top tips to help keep teeth healthy.

Example sugary drinks display

Useful Resources:

The following resources will help you create you show- stopping display board

Video- Looking After Children’s Teeth

You can also share the following video with families to signpost them to more top tips on good oral hygiene and how to brush their children’s teeth.

Training for early years practitioners

Our Oral Health Promotion online training (opens in new tab) explores the factors that can impact on children’s oral health, such as diet, tooth brushing and dental visits. Practitioners will also learn useful tips and strategies to help them support families in looking after their children’s teeth at home.

Book now for only £36! (opens in new tab)

If you are an setting based in the London Borough of Newham contact the team (opens in new tab) to receive your Coupon Code to access the training for FREE!

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