Childhood obesity in the UAE is on the rise, but the knock-on effects it is having on our children’s oral health is not getting the attention it deserves. The statistics speak for themselves. A 2013 Dubai Health Authority (DHA) report shows that 80 per cent of children aged between 12 and 15 years have unhealthy gums. And for 15 to 17-year-olds, this figure sits at 57 per cent.
Taking into consideration the fact that 40 per cent of 11 to 19-year-olds in the country is classed as overweight and obese, this link between childhood obesity and bad oral health seems blatant. “Although it may not be scientifically proven through studies here, this is what I call a common-sense link,” Dr David Roze, founder of Dr Roze and Associates dental practice, told Khaleej Times.
Treating about 1,000 patients each month – 250 of which are children – he said the “multiple snacking habits” in the UAE are disastrous for oral health. “We’re living in a sugar world, and in this region especially, the content of sugar in food is very high. Children need to snack less.”
For parents looking to be more proactive in regards to their child’s oral health, he recommends eating three core meals a day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) – with a snack at 4pm. “Preferably let them snack on something like an apple or banana. Multiple snacks in between meals keeps the acidity of bacteria in the mouth high.” And with an increase in bacteria comes an increase in the possibility of infection.
“You need to let your saliva do its work by washing away that bacteria,” he said. In response to the news that the UAE may seek to bring in a tax on sugar and fizzy drinks, Dr Roze said it is all about “responsibility”. “It is not one fizzy drink that is bad for your health, it is the excess consumption of such sugary produce that leads to health problems.”
So for him, it is up to parents to be “responsible, reasonable and aware”. “Don’t eliminate all treats, just make them exactly what they are.a treat! Have a fizzy drink once a week for instance, not every day.”
Like with any rising health epidemic, Dr Roze said prevention and education is key when it comes to better oral health. “We need to eliminate this fear people have with the dentist. Technology has made procedures so much less invasive nowadays.”
And once again, he said it is a matter of common sense. “If you don’t keep a check on your oral health it will lead to other health issues, including cardiovascular disease, respiratory infections, or diabetic complications.”