Diet is everything when it comes to oral health
It’s important for patients to understand how diet impacts general wellbeing. This includes being aware of how it affects oral health.
Sugar is public enemy no. 1 right now. However, it seems that the sweet stuff gets us young.
Public Health England (PHE) published an evidence review[i] on food designed for infants of up to 36 months. The results are shocking:
- Some foods marketed as ‘healthy’ have the highest sugar content
- Sweet snacks are more appealing
- Misleading labels and marketing encourage solid food earlier than official advice recommends
- Some product names misrepresent ingredients
- Clear feeding instructions are not consistently provided.
As a result, PHE made several recommendations. These are mostly about improving nutritional value and making labels clearer. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) also suggested better regulation of free sugar content in food for under 2’s.
With high sugar consumption linked to the UK’s widespread problem regarding childhood caries, reduction is key. The younger habits are learnt, the harder they are to change. Perhaps starting with baby food content would be a step in the right direction?
Not so sweet influences
But it’s not just sugar that impacts oral health. Patients need to know that acidic food and drinks pose a threat by weakening and eroding the enamel. This includes everything from fizzy drinks to ‘healthier’ fruit juices and citrus fruits.
In addition, patients should be aware of the risk of chewing ice, as this can easily chip a tooth and/or restoration. They should also moderate alcohol consumption to reduce dry mouth and all the oral health problems this brings.
The fad diet
The rise and fall of fad diets causes various oral health problems. The ‘elixir of youth’ – otherwise known as hot lemon water – is believed to be good for metabolism. However, the acidity of the lemon increases the risk of erosion. The paleo diet – often involving raw foods – leads to high sugar and low calcium intake. This leads to higher decay and lower remineralisation. Furthermore, juicing is a rapid weight loss trick, but it subjects the teeth to the damaging effects of constant sugar attacks.
However, the anti-inflammatory diet has been shown to affect periodontal health positively.[ii] It involves consuming few animal proteins and processed carbohydrates, with more plant nitrates, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamin D.
Diet and oral health
Dental professionals are well placed to help patients understand the links between oral health and diet. The professional team can help many people improve their dental and general wellbeing by simply offering tailored nutritional information.
[i] Gov.uk. Public Health England. Children’s Health and Welfare. Children’s health. Baby food industry needs better products and clearer labelling. 27 June 2019. Click here to visit the Gov.uk website. [Accessed June 2019]
[ii] Woelber JP, Gärtner M, Breuninger L, Anderson A, König D, Hellwig E, Al‐Ahmad A, Vach K, Dötsch A, Ratka‐Krüger P, Tennert C. The influence of an anti‐inflammatory diet on gingivitis. A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Periodontology. 2019 Apr; 46 (4): 481-90.