You are what you eat

Dental Health week 5th to 9th August

National Dental Health week is 5th to 9th August and is a good reminder to get your oral health on track.

Everything you eat and drink can have a major effect on the health of your teeth and gums, particularly on the development of tooth decay. Tooth decay is a diet-related disease caused when the sugars in food and drinks are taken up by bacteria; these, in turn, produce the acids that can attack the outer layer of tooth enamel.

To ensure that your diet doesn’t negatively affect your teeth, there’s a few key things to keep in mind: 

Drink lots of water
It’s calorie free, there are no ingredient labels to stress over, and it’s almost free! Even better, tap water in most areas of Australia contains fluoride, one of the easiest and most beneficial ways to help prevent tooth decay. If you choose water over anything else, and regularly sip it throughout the day, you’re going a long way to making real difference to the health of your teeth and your whole body.  

Limit snacking between meals
A key factor in helping to prevent tooth decay is saliva, which provides a natural defence mechanism within the mouth by neutralising the acids produced by bacteria. However, if you snack frequently between meals, your saliva may not get a chance to work, meaning your teeth don’t get a break from the acid attacks that occur every time you consume sugary foods or drinks.  Try to limit sugary treats to mealtimes, rather than between meals. 

Watch what you eat
It is not just the obvious sweet foods and drinks such as lollies and soft drinks that can cause decay. Frequent snacking on foods with hidden sugars like biscuits, crackers, cereals, chips and even dried fruit (these foods break down into sugars in the mouth) can cause acid attacks on your tooth enamel. Sugary foods that are sticky and chewy take longer to be cleared from the mouth and can therefore increase your risk of tooth decay.

Gum anyone?
Chewing sugar-free gum (and that’s the crucial qualifier, it must be sugar-free!) may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you’re thinking about good dietary habits that benefit your teeth. But studies have shown that chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after eating can prompt your mouth to produce more saliva, which helps neutralise decay-causing acid attacks. 

Courtesy of Australia Dental Association

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