Health officials have warned that up to one third of children suffer tooth decay by the time they reach the age of three. This is mainly due to parents giving them too much fruit squash and juice.
Senior dentists have stated that the country should be ashamed of themselves.
Public Health England (PHE) officials said busy parents are taking infants to nursery school without brushing their teeth and giving them baby bottles and cups filled with sugary drinks.
The PHE director of dental public health, Dr Sandra White, said there are many parents who offer babies and toddlers fruit juices, but are unaware of the high sugar content. She has advised parents to only give their children water or milk until the age of three, and not to use bottles or sipping cups for sugary drinks.
Dr White said fruit juices appear to be healthy, but actually contain high levels of sugar. She said parents are only trying to do the best they can for their children, but they do not realise how much sugar is in the fruit drinks.
She stated that many parents are putting squashes into baby bottles and handing it to children who are barely out of nappies.
This has resulted in the increase of early childhood caries in certain parts of the country.
The new data from PHE, which compares all English local authorities, indicates that in Leicester, 34% of three-year-olds suffer from tooth decay. More than 25% of children living in Sough, Hillingdon, Salford, Manchester and Oldham suffer from tooth decay.
The figure is below 2% in South Gloucestershire, with low levels found in Staffordshire, North Tyneside and East Riding in Yorkshire.
Dr White said Britain should look back to the sensible eating habits that were learned during the war-time rationing. She said sugar was rationed and we had really good health then, including dental health. She said people should return to that time when less sugar was eaten, and importantly, less sugar was drunk.
The investigation included ‘early childhood caries’, which is a very aggressive form of tooth decay which commences in the upper front teeth. This is linked to consumption of sugary drinks from sipping cups and bottles. The highest levels were found to be in London. In Hillingdon, 16.1% of three-year-olds and in Newham, 14% were found to be suffering this type of damage.
Health officials said that in rare cases, children had suffered such bad decay that all their teeth had to be removed.
Separate figures indicate that among infants between the ages of one and a half to three, fruit juice is the highest single source of sugar consumption. It accounts for 14% of intake, with 12% being obtained from soft drinks and 12% from sweets.
Image Credit: Toshimasa Ishibashi