Dental health week
Good oral health and diet go hand in hand. Whilst diet can’t control all dental complications, it can certainly play a significant role in the prevention of many. The dietary tips below are important for taking care of your teeth in the short term but also the long term. They are also important to ensure your children do not have unnecessary problems as they move in to adulthood.
What foods contribute to decay?
Foods that contribute towards tooth decay are typically those that are high in sugar. Bacteria in the mouth are fed by the sugar from these foods which then produce acid. The acid destroys teeth by dissolving the minerals on the surface of teeth.
Most people focus on lollies and sweets as the main contributor to tooth decay. However, the bacteria in the mouth will feed on sugar from any source! This also includes any carbohydrate containing foods like bread and fruit.
Examples of foods high in refined sugar include:
x Many breakfast cereals
x Muesli bars
x Soft drink
x Sweet biscuits
The above examples are high risk foods for tooth decay, particularly if they are eaten regularly and in large quantities.
It is important to keep in mind though that both dietitians and the Australian Dental Association (ADA) do not recommend eliminating carbohydrate foods completely in order to avoid decay. Rather they advocate that by being aware of better carbohydrate choices and how to practice good oral health techniques can help to avoid tooth decay.
Tips to avoid dental decay:
√ Eat a variety of healthy foods that are prepared from fresh ingredients, where possible. This includes lean meats, fruit, vegetables, wholegrain products and dairy.
√ Avoid packaged items
√ Eat your dairy! The ADA suggests that some foods actually prevent dental decay and protect your teeth. This includes milk and some cheeses.
√ Keep sugary foods as ‘sometimes’ food only e.g. chocolate, lollies, sweet biscuits
√ Avoid sugary drinks e.g. cordial, soft drink, sports drinks, vitamin waters, juices
Acid in drinks
Sugar is only one contributor to tooth decay. The other common offender is acid. Acid comes from beverages such as soft drinks, cordials, alcohol, sport drinks and fruit juice.
What many people fail to realise is that any carbonated drinks can cause tooth decay. This not only includes regular soft drink but also diet varieties and even mineral water! These drinks can play a big role in tooth erosion as they all have an acidic component.
The best option for adults and for children is to stick to fluoridated water.
Tips for children
It is important to take care of your children’s teeth right from the get go. Many children are now experiencing dental decay at a much younger age than they once did. Babies can begin to experience dental decay as soon as their first teeth break through. Follow the tips below to take the best care of your children’s teeth:
- Try to avoid putting your baby or child to sleep with breast milk, bottle milk or any other sugary drink. The sugar in these drinks will feed bacteria and cause the formation of plaque. If your child gets thirsty over night, water is the best option.
- If sucking on something helps to put your baby to sleep, offer them a bottle with water in it
- If your baby has one of their feeds scheduled before bed, use a moistened cloth to gently wipe down their gums and teeth before they go to sleep – this will avoid plaque developing and causing decay
- Start practicing good oral hygiene straight away. The ADA have a fact sheet on how to clean your babies teeth and gums
- At the age of 12 months, bottle and breast feeds are no longer necessary. Encourage your child to drink from a cup and avoid night feeds. Night feeds past 12 months of age increases the risk of decay.
- Infants with a dry mouth or who breathe through their mouth are at increased risk of cavities. Speak to your dentist about strategies to avoid damage and keep water on hand.
- Do not offer your children discretionary foods like lollies, fries, chocolate, and ice cream. Not only will they contribute to tooth erosion but your children do not need them! Best to avoid bad habits forming.
Tips to avoid decay
1. Brush regularly
A lot of damage can be avoided by brushing twice a day – this will help to remove the plaque that has built up over the day. It is optimal to wait an hour after eating before brushing. This is because the acid in food and drink momentarily softens tooth enamel and brushing too soon can damage it.
Saliva actually plays a very important part in taking care of your teeth. It acts as a protective film and clears away unwanted particles. Additionally, it neutralises and removes acids from food and drink. Cheese as a snack is recommended by the ADA as it stimulates the saliva glands, as does chewing gum. Cheese is best eaten in moderation and in fat reduced varieties.
Avoid snacks that are high in sugar. When having any drink, other than milk or water, drink with a straw to bypass the teeth.
4. Sugar-free gum
As previously mentioned, chewing gum can help stimulate saliva. Seeing as we cannot brush our teeth after every meal, chewing gum after meals and snacks can help to clear away and neutralise the acids that cause damage.
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist.
If you have any questions about nutrition related issues, you can make an appointment with Belinda today. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today!
The tips above were based on the advice of the Australian dental Association. See more at: