Summer foods vs good oral health – not always a breeze

Written by Dr Nigel Carter

As a nation, we might rejoice when the summer season comes around, yet millions of holiday-makers and picnic-goers could be putting their oral health at greater risk with their summer diet.

Consuming too many acidic foods, as well as eating more sugary foods and drinks, traditionally associated with summer-time and holidays, can potentially increase the risk of dental erosion and tooth decay.

Risks of dental erosion and tooth decay are also increased during the holiday season as eating-habits and patterns often change. It is more likely that normal meal-times are disrupted during the holidays and snacking and grazing increases, which can cause multiple-attacks on teeth throughout the day.

Dental erosion is the loss of tooth enamel caused by acid attacks from foods and drinks. Many holiday foods like vinaigrettes, olives, red wine and ciders are very acidic. Enamel is the hard, protective coating of the tooth, and if it is worn away, the dentine underneath becomes exposed and teeth can look discoloured and become sensitive.

READ THE FULL STORY: Summer foods vs good oral health – not always a breeze

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Why the fizzy drinks tax should be implemented

Drinks packed with sugar have long been problematic to the health of the nation. The Foundation has supported a number of policies designed to curb sugary drinks consumption, including a report backed by more than 60 organisations calling for a tax on sugary drinks.

The report1, compiled by Sustain entitled ‘A Children’s Future Fund – How food duties could provide the money to protect children’s health and the world they grow up in’, makes three main recommendations for Budget 2013 it believes would help to improve children’s health. They are:

  • Introduce a sugary drinks duty for the UK which, for example at 20p per litre, would raise around £1 billion a year;
  • Ring-fence the majority of money raised from a sugary drinks duty for a Children’s Future Fund, which could be spent on improving children’s health by, for example, providing free school meals, or sustainably produced fruit and vegetable snacks in schools; and
  • Give an independent body the responsibility to oversee how the sugary drinks duty is implemented and make sure the revenue is spent effectively.

This is not the only report to suggest such a course of action. The National Heart Forum published a report2 last year also calling for the introduction of a duty on sugary drinks to reduce consumption levels and raise money to support public health programmes. The growing support and backing for these programmes cannot be ignored by the health industry.

In the UK 60 per cent of adults are considered overweight and obese. Diet-related illnesses cost the NHS £6 billion each year, and conditions such as type II diabetes and heart disease have also increased, placing a substantial burden on the healthcare system and the economy.

READ THE FULL STORY:  Why the fizzy drinks tax should be implemented

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Milking the benefits

A new study has found that drinking a glass of milk after breakfast significantly reduces the build-up of plaque.

Results of an American study1 have shown a small glass of milk more than halves the build-up of plaque acids after eating dry sugary breakfast cereal.

Milk is one of the best sources of calcium and the study reaffirms the belief that drinking milk after a meal can also help because it neutralises the acids and re-mineralise the teeth after eating.

The frequent consumption of sugary foods and drinks exposes teeth to longer periods of acid attacks and weakens the enamel. While some experts have labelled breakfast as the most important meal of the day, research group Which? discovered 12 out of 14 cereals2 we know and love contain worryingly high levels of sugar. Even cereals perceived as healthy are somewhat contradictory, also containing high levels of sugar.

The UK in general has developed a very unhealthy food environment, making it even harder to improve dietary habits. Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, said: “It is important to remember is that it is not the amount of sugar you eat or drink, but how often you do it. A sugary breakfast once a day might not cause significant damage to your teeth on its own. It is the snacking culture that seems to have developed throughout the day that is harmful.

READ THE FULL STORY:  Dental News: Milking the benefits

Eight top tips for terrific teeth

National Smile Month is the perfect opportunity for you to pay extra attention to the importance of oral health. With this in mind, Karen Coates, Dental Advisor at the British Dental Health Foundation, has eight top tips for terrific teeth.

1. Visit the dentist regularly, as often as they recommend

It doesn’t matter how old you are, or how many teeth you have, you should always follow your dentist’s advice about how often they need to see you.

So why are check-ups so important? Well, for starters prevention is always better than cure. Regular visits to the dentist can identify problems developing early, and more importantly set you on a path to rectify them.

There’s a chance everyone will suffer from gum disease at some point in their lives – it’s that common – so do remember to get to your dentist or hygienist as often as they recommend.

2. Take diet into consideration

Diet may have a large impact on the growing obesity problem in the UK, but there’s no escaping the damage a poor diet does to our teeth.One of the Foundation’s key messages is ‘cut down how often you have sugary foods and drinks’. This is a particularly important message for parents to remember. The more often your child has sugary or acidic foods or drinks, the more likely they are to have decay. It is therefore important to keep sugary and acidic foods to mealtimes only. Food and drinks which are kindest to teeth include cheese, crackers, breadsticks, raw vegetables, plain water and milk.

It is also worth remembering that some processed baby foods contain quite a lot of sugar. Try checking the list of ingredients – the higher up the list sugar is, the more there is in the product. Sometimes, these are shown as fructose, glucose, lactose, or sucrose.

3. Brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste

It’s important to brush your teeth first thing in the morning and just before you go to bed for two minutes using a fluoride toothpaste. Why? During the night the flow of saliva, which is the mouth’s cleaning system, slows down. This leaves the mouth more at risk to decay; therefore brushing acts as a preventive measure.

READ THE FULL STORY: Eight top tips for terrific teeth

England captain left with plenty to smile about

Essex CricketAfter recording a superb century and overseeing a series victory against New Zealand, it’s little wonder England captain Alastair Cook has a smile on his face.

The Essex batsman has been sharing a smile along with his county team-mates after they posed with a Smiley to show their support for National Smile Month, the UK’s largest oral health campaign.

The campaign, which runs until 20 June, encourages everyone to follow three key messages for good oral health and to find out just why oral hygiene is important.

Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, is delighted to see such high profile stars playing their role in spreading these messages, particularly for the next generation.

Dr Carter said: “Sports stars are often seen as role models for young children, and if they are seen to be promoting good oral health then children will undoubtedly follow. There are few role models bigger than the England captain, so I’m thrilled to see Alastair and the rest of the Essex County Cricket team posing with their smileys.

READ THE FULL STORY: England captain left with plenty to smile about

Oral health campaign takes centre stage at National Theatre

National Smile Month LaunchThe official launch reception of the UK’s largest oral health campaign – National Smile Month – was held yesterday with smileys taking over a brand new venue.

The Deck at the National Theatre, London, welcomed leading figures in the profession and representatives of some of the UK’s largest household names, including platinum sponsors Oral-BListerine and Wrigley’s Extra.

National Smile Month, taking place from 20 May to 20 June, is the focal point for thousands of dental and health professionals to co-ordinate events and activities across the UK to improve oral health. Community groups, businesses, schools, and members of the public are invited to get involved by organising activities such as fun days, talks, sponsored events, displays, open days and competitions.

Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, said: “Getting people to talk and think about their teeth and dental habits is vital to our goal of improving the state of oral health not only in the UK but worldwide. 

“The impact of poor oral hygiene is often underestimated and someone’s poor oral health can be a pre-cursor to a number of serious health issues. National Smile Month is a great platform to discuss these issues with patients and members of the general public. Encouraging people to think about and take better care of their oral health is essential to the success of the campaign.

Read the full story: Oral health campaign takes centre stage at National Theatre

Do you have what it takes to be a Buddy?

buddy9The British Dental Health Foundation is looking for Buddies to aid its quest to improve oral health in children. The charity is asking dental professionals, teachers and educators to take up the challenge and deliver oral health education in a bid to increase children’s oral health.

Latest figures reveal a third (33 per cent) of 12-year-olds have some kind of cavity while around one in seven (14 per cent) of eight-year-olds have signs of decay in permanent teeth, with one in 100 losing a tooth to decay.

Children who learn good oral health habits early are far more likely to carry them into adulthood – that is why today (Wednesday 3 April) the Foundation has launched www.dentalbuddy.org – a website with a range of free materials and resources to encourage more dental professionals and schools to work together to deliver oral health messages to children in the community.

The symbol of the campaign is Buddy, a spaceman character who will set out to explore oral health in partnership with children.

Director of Educational Resources at the Foundation, Amanda Oakey, is asking for dental professionals and teachers to become a ‘Buddy’ themselves and take their expertise into the classroom.

Amanda said: “Teachers have a lot of pressure to deliver education that meets national targets in literacy, numeracy and areas such as Personal, Health & Social Education, which oral health happens to fall under.

“By working with local practices and oral health teams and sharing their knowledge and experiences, there is every chance to really make a positive difference for many children in the UK, particularly in more deprived areas where inequalities in health are more apparent.

“Oral health levels of children in the UK are generally very good but fundamental problems still exist. Children not being taken to the dentist, not being provided with toothbrushes and fluoride toothpaste and having imbalanced diets loaded with sugar. These are basic lessons we can pass on directly to the children themselves and teach them the value of good oral hygiene.”

READ MORE: Dental Buddy – Be a Buddy