Campaign to reduce sugar and improve oral health launched

Maidah & mum Shabana

The council is launching a month-long campaign to raise awareness of the detrimental effects of an unhealthy diet and too much sugar.

The Happy Smiles Healthy Weight campaign coincides with national Smile Month and will host sessions across the borough on how to keep children’s teeth clean and maintain a healthy weight.

Tower Hamlets has some of the highest rates of tooth decay and obesity in children.

Tooth decay is the most common reason for hospital admission for children aged 5-9 and 27 per cent of 10-11 year olds are obese, compared to 23 per cent in London and 19 per cent in England.

Dr Somen Banerjee, Director of Public Health at Tower Hamlets said: “There is much more we can be doing to give children the healthiest start possible. We have an obligation to not only increase access to healthier options but to proactively increase awareness of the serious health implications of consuming too much sugar.”

Parents are encouraged to pop along to a free, fun, short session that will cover how to brush their child’s milk teeth, a fruit and veggie tasting, healthy snack ideas and a free goody bag.

9 June update - There are no more sessions.

The pledge is in line with priorities from the recently approved Health and Wellbeing Strategy (2017-20) that has a main focus on reducing obesity and other diet-related diseases such as dental decay, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

One of six key areas of the pledge includes raising public awareness, advocating healthier food and working to reduce the prevalence of sugar.

Mum, Shabana Begum, only realised how important brushing Maidah’s teeth - her 22-month-old daughter- was after attending a health session at her play group.

Shabana said: “I never really thought about brushing my daughter’s teeth as a daily routine, as she’s so young and she only has her baby teeth. I thought I would get her into a routine when she starts going to school as I'm a busy mum with other children.

“Especially in the morning when I would do the school runs; I used to give her sweets as it seemed to keep her quiet, in her buggy, rather than brushing her teeth.

“It's only when I took her to Surestart children’s centre for her stay and play session, that Joanna, a health advisor told me of the importance of brushing from a young age.

“I realised that I wasn't taking good care of her teeth just because she's young, and thinking it won't matter much.

“After becoming aware of good oral hygiene, I spoke to my sister who has a three-year-old. She had the same habit as me - giving sweets and less brushing and as a result, my niece’s teeth had started to show signs of tooth decay. I knew that would be Maidah’s teeth soon if I didn't start brushing.

“Now I encourage Maidah to brush her teeth twice a day. I do that by brushing together with her, looking at the mirror so she can see how I brush my teeth and she copies me.

“I keep spare tooth brushes for her in my house - one upstairs, downstairs and in my bag if I'm out late. Then I have no excuse to brush before she falls asleep or to go up and get her brush.

“When I'm outside with her instead of sweets, I give her a banana as it has natural sugar. She likes it now and is used to having fruit at the play group, so she doesn't moan for sweets.

“I feel so happy now knowing her teeth, gums and health will be OK.

My tips would be:

  • Parents should brush together with their child by looking into the mirror so their child can copy them
  • Let your child hold their own brush and let them brush their teeth while you sing to them
  • I sing her the alphabet song to make it more fun for them
  • Praise your child after they brush
  • Give them stickers

I use to say to my twin boys (9 years old now)

Brushing teeth day and night

Keeps tooth decay out of sight.

Floss floss floss

Give your teeth a shiny gloss

My gums are healthy

It don't feel filthy

I'm happy

So is mummy. 

“Take your child to the dentist so they can show you how to brush their teeth, not just brushing in the middle but at the top of the teeth where decay starts to show.

“I was brushing her side to side until Joanna showed me it’s important to start from the top of the tooth and to brush in a circular motion.

“I know with busy parents it's hard to keep a routine for babies but just like changing their nappy; it’s a must.”

Find your nearest dentist on NHS Choices

Posted on Monday 15th May 2017