South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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Oral health and nutrition for children under five years of age: A paediatric food-based dietary guideline

S Naidoo


Good nutrition is essential for good health and the development and integrity of the oral cavity. Oral health is integral to general health and essential to well-being. Dental caries is the most common oral disease in children under five years of age, and although preventable, still affects many children, particularly those from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. High consumption levels of sugary food and drinks have  been implicated as an important dietary cause of obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease and dental caries. The global obesity epidemic has attracted policy-makers’ attention to the relationship between diets that are rich in added sugars (particularly glucose, sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup) and obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease risk factors. The aim of this paper is to review the literature and summarise the evidence that relates to diet and nutrition as a cause of oral diseases, such as dental caries, and early childhood caries. The Common Risk Factor Approach will be described as a way in which health promotion and preventive initiatives that advance oral health and nutrition in children under five years of age can be achieved. Recommendations are provided on public health strategies with regard to nutrition education, food policies, diet counselling and the promotion of adequate fluoride exposure via appropriate vehicles.

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