Dr Jenny Kabir is the clinical director of Fresh Dental Smile Clinic in York. The clinic specialises in cosmetic dentistry and provides outstanding treatment and care to all patients. Dr Kabir shares her knowledge about the best way to take care of your teeth.
Over the last ten years, our awareness has increased about how important it is to have a healthy and balanced diet. Many children are being taught in school about the importance of what they eat, and some food packets now label the amount of sugar, salt and saturated fat which is in the product. Brighton is the first British city to introduce voluntary sugar tax. Restaurants and shops can choose to include the tax, of which the money will be donated to charity. These factors, combined with numerous articles and television programmes, means we are becoming more aware as a society of what food and drink we should be eating, and what we should be avoiding.
However, how many of us look at the food we buy and think about our teeth? We think about the impact food may have on our body and our physical health, but not necessarily our teeth.
The World Health Organisation claims that nearly 100% of adults have a dental cavity. This is a staggering figure, and shows that more needs to be done globally to help reduce dental health problems.
There are two main ways to take care of your teeth and reduce your chances of getting dental cavities. Firstly, being aware of what you eat and drink and the effect your diet has on your teeth. Secondly, maintaining a good level of oral hygiene to help prevent tooth decay.
Watch What You Eat
None of us like to be told a list of food and drink we can’t have. However, you should be aware of what the food and drink you consume can do to your teeth. The main culprit of tooth decay is sugar. Chocolate, sweets, biscuits and pastries are all high in sugar but we generally already know this (and doesn’t stop us from having them from time to time!).
The problem is, there are some other foods which many of us consume on a daily basis which also contain sugar. Bread, barbeque sauce, yoghurt, pasta sauce, dried fruit, cereal bars, and salad dressing are some of the main foods which you may not think have much sugar, but are infact full of it. As for drinks, fizzy drinks are always high in sugar, as are energy drinks. However, fruit juices also have extremely high amounts of sugar in them.
A lot of these foods and drinks may be frequent in your diet and you may find surprising that that they are high in sugar. Don’t get caught out! Always read the label for the ingredients and try to reduce the amount of these you eat. However, even if the label doesn’t say it contains sugar, watch out for glucose, sucrose, and fructose which are types of sugar.
Why is sugar so bad for my teeth?
Each time we eat food with sugar, it leaves a coating of sugar on the surface of our teeth. The natural bacteria we have within the mouth then thrive off this and produce more bacteria and plaque. It’s this process with leads to the production of acids which damage and create cavities in our teeth over time.
Key Tips For Reducing Sugar Intake:
- Mealtimes – When you have a meal, this is the best time to have that sugary food or drink. Having a small glass of juice or a sugary dessert with a meal is much better than snacking on sugars throughout the day and in between meals. Stick to drinking water, and eating foods with less added sugar when you fancy a snack. Fruit, easy to eat vegetables such as carrot sticks or cucumber, even small pieces of cheese are better for your teeth when you feel hungry in between meals.
- Top tip: Essentially, count the number of times you eat food containing sugar, that number equals the amount of times that sugar can attack your teeth. If you have sugar with each meal that will be three times that the sugar can affect your teeth. Try and keep the number as low as possible and keep track of how much you are consuming.
- Rinse your mouth out – After you’ve had some sugary food or drink, rinse your mouth out with water as this can help remove any sugar left behind. Alcohol can also be high in sugar so try having water in between alcoholic drinks to get rid of sugar and rehydrate you as well.
- Use a straw – Using a straw when you have sugary drinks will limit the amount of sugar that comes into actual contact with your teeth and therefore this helps to prevent tooth decay.
Maintaining Good Oral Health
Whilst watching what you eat will help you to take care of your teeth, it is also equally important to get into a good daily routine with brushing and flossing. Brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste is vital in removing plaque from your teeth. Always brush before you sleep and at one other point during the day.
Flossing is also important as it can remove food and bacteria from between your teeth which sometimes your toothbrush can’t get to. Flossing after meals is important helps to fight plaque during the day.
Even if you’re eating less sugary foods, brushing is crucial for taking care of your teeth. By doing the simple task of taking care of your teeth, you are also protecting your mouth from other problems, such as gum disease and oral cancer.
Make sure you visit your dentist on a regular basis for a check up. They will be able to establish if your mouth has any signs of tooth decay, or other problems, and can advise you on what more you can do to help take care of your teeth.