Easter is upon us again and the shelves at the supermarket are lined with sugar and chocolate. The World Health Organisation recently recommended cutting sugar intake by 50%, suggesting that the intake of free sugars should only be about 5-10% of total daily energy intake, as a preventative measure against diseases such as dental decay, diabetes and obesity. As dentists, free sugars are one of our natural enemies, but we also don’t want to be Easter Grinches, we want you to be able to enjoy this time while also maintaining your dental health.
How does sugar cause tooth decay?
We all have bacteria living in our mouths, regular brushing and flossing controls the number of bacteria that are present. When we eat sugary foods it feeds the bacteria in our mouths – the more available that sugar is, the more bacteria because it becomes “easier” for the bacteria to live there. Bacteria consume this sugar that we eat and as a by-product, they metabolise the sugar into acids such as malic acid and lactic acid (yes, this is the same lactic acid that makes your muscles sore after intense exercise!) The acid then slowly eats away at the mineral in the teeth and softens tooth structure as the bacteria tunnel into the tooth causing decay. And that’s when you get holes in your tooth. So the more sugar that you consume over a longer period of time, the more likely the chance that you will get decay.
Tips for how to best look after your teeth this Easter
We know that in most cases it is impossible not to consume ANY sugar, we also know that chocolate is a very important part of this time of year, so here are some tips on how to enjoy responsibly this Easter:
- Try to have the sweets at the end of a meal – protective saliva is switched on when we eat. This is important for combating acids and clearing sugar that would otherwise linger around the mouth which put the teeth at risk.
- Rinse with water after the chocolate – this acts to clear the mouth of any excess sugar. Drinking the water will also better hydrate you so that you produce more saliva to protect your teeth.
- Don’t brush straight after the chocolate – It may not always the best idea to brush straight after eating as food acids caused by eating can soften tooth structure briefly, putting the teeth at risk of toothbrush abrasion, rinse with water and wait at least 30 minutes.
- Try not to have sweets that are sticky or gummy – Sugar that hangs around the mouth for longer tends to feed the bacteria that cause decay for longer, try to avoid the sticky stuff.
- Try not to over-consume sugar and sweets – enjoy responsibly, for the sake of your teeth, your general health and your figure!
- Regular 6 monthly check ups with x-rays as required – Regular checkups will help us keep an eye on any developing decay, or identify any areas at risk of decaying before they turn into cavities or root canals.
From all of the team at Highgate hill Dental Centre, we hope that you all have a safe and happy Easter with family and friends!
We will see you at your next checkup!
About Out Author:
Dr Will Wang:
Dr Will Wang has been a dentist at Highgate Hill Dental Centre since 2008. He aims to make seeing the dentist a positive, happy experience for the whole family, and enjoys making it a fun visit for children. Will has a particular interest in preventative and restorative dentistry; and spends a lot of time explaining concepts to empower patients with the ability to maintain their own dental health between visits.