Have you ever heard of the smile diet? It’s the concept that by making simple changes to what we eat and drink, we can significantly improve the health of our mouth.
Most of us already know that too much sugar causes dental decay and acidity results in loss of tooth enamel. The latest piece of research by the Oral Health Foundation and GSK supports this. Findings show that almost nine in ten (88%) of us believe that healthy eating is important for maintaining good oral health.
This is terrific news. It shows that our knowledge about nutrition and its relationship with oral health is improving. The difficulties for many of us now are around the practicalities of changing what we eat and drink to match those behaviours that we know are right.
We are still a nation of grazers and snackers, continuing to consume sugar and other unhealthy food types, in vast quantities. This is having a negative impact on our oral health as a population. Rotten teeth are being routinely removed across all ages. The challenges are there for us all to see. These foods and drinks are all convenient, readily-available, cheap, easy and quick to consume. They are also decisions made as a result of habit and emotion.
It all means that if we want to improve the health of our mouth and truly adopt the smile diet, we are going to have to tackle the above barriers head on.
Say no to unhealthy snacking, sugar and sweets
Seven in ten (70%) of us believe that snacking has an impact on our oral health. And we are absolutely right. Sadly, there is enough evidence to believe that our snacking habits are harmful to our oral health. Sugary snacks and confectionary still manage to attract us. It appears our sweet-tooth is hard to ignore.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation says: “While chocolate, sweets, fruit juices and artificial milkshakes give us a short burst of energy and satisfy our taste-buds, they are packed with unhealthy ingredients that spell bad news for our mouth. Consuming too much sugar too often can lead to long-term problems like gum disease, tooth loss and tooth decay, as well as wider health problems such as diabetes and obesity.
“The good news is that snacking doesn’t have to be a bad thing – it all depends on the choices we make.”
Further findings from the nationwide study shows that most of us (87%) know that choosing lower sugar snacks is better for the health of our mouth.
“While snacking on the wrong things can be damaging to our health, the opposite can be said of healthier snacks,” adds Dr Carter. “Raw nuts, vegetables, cheese and even breadsticks are tooth-friendly choices that can do wonders, not only for our mouth, but our body too.”
Water and milk are best for oral health
While sugar is the cause of tooth decay, there is another diet nasty that is playing havoc with our smile.
Acids are commonly found across many widely-consumed drinks, including fruit juices, fizzy pops and alcohol. Acidic drinks can soften the enamel surrounding our teeth, leaving them vulnerable to wear, which can expose the sensitive dentine underneath. This is called dental erosion. Without our enamel, our teeth become more sensitive and can lead to pain and discomfort.
Dr Soha Dattani, Director Scientific & Professional Affairs at GSK Consumer Healthcare says: “Acidic foods and drinks can be very common. As consumers, this makes it incredibly difficult for us to avoid them. Even ‘diet’ and ‘sugar free’ drinks, that are being sold as healthier alternatives have remarkably low pH levels – making them especially acidic.
“For our oral health, even these are a no-go.
“While special toothpastes like Sensodyne Pronamel can help strengthen our enamel and make our teeth less sensitive, the best scenario is to avoid these drinks altogether. Milk and still water remain the best choices for healthy teeth.”
Although sugary and acidic may appear affordable and appealing, the consequences to our health may be both costly and unpleasant in the long run. This year’s National Smile Month is the perfect opportunity to focus on achieving our perfect smile. By removing unhealthier options and replacing them with deliciously nutritious alternatives, our physical health, mental wellbeing and our smile, will all feel the benefits.
Say no more to the potential damage caused by sugar and acid and give our mouth, teeth and gums the best chance to flourish. For National Smile Month, it’s time for all of us to truly embrace the smile diet.