Eat well for good oral health
Did you know that 96 per cent of adult Canadians have had cavities?
It’s a staggering number. Moreover, nearly 60 per cent of us have had a cavity by the age of 19.
While there can be other contributing factors, such as genetics, the number one culprit is sugar. Dental caries result from plaque forming on tooth surfaces and converting free sugars into acids that can destroy teeth over time.
As most people know, this can lead to pain, tooth loss and infection.
However, not all sugars are created equal. Some sugars occur intrinsically in healthy whole foods. These are rarely at fault.
“Naturally occurring sugars, when consumed in fresh whole fruit, vegetables, milk and milk products and cereal grains, are not a risk factor for dental caries, and these items make an important contribution to a healthy balanced diet…”
…says a report entitled The Scientific Basis of Oral Health Education.
Sweets are hard on your smile
The problem lies in free sugars added to foods and beverages and those occurring in natural sweeteners such as honey and syrups. Sweet foods, especially sticky ones, are best consumed in moderation, or as part of meal.
Sugary drinks, including 100% fruit juice, are among the worst offenders. Just a single can of pop, for example, can contain up to 40 grams or 10 teaspoons of sugar.
That one sweet drink could easily approach or exceed the recommended daily free sugar threshold recommended by the Heart & Stroke foundation and the World Health Organization.
Indeed, says another peer reviewed article,
“Dental caries is a diet-related disease; a healthy diet and eating behaviors form the foundation of caries prevention.”
Good oral health begins in childhood
For everyone regardless of age, diets should focus on reducing the amount of free sugar consumed; eating fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole-grain foods; and limiting the consumption of all drinks containing free sugars.
That goes for the little ones, as well.
Here are five more tips for parents to consider when helping their children develop good lifelong eating habits for overall and oral health.
Remember to SMILE!
SIP on water more often. All sugary drinks are very hard on teeth. Limit sugary drinks, including pop and 100% fruit juice, to ½ cup per day.
MASK the effects of starchy and sugary foods that are hard on teeth. Include them with other foods that can help ‘scrub’ away sugars. After eating, encourage and help little ones rinse their mouths with water, chew sugar-free gum or brush their teeth.
IDENTIFY sticky and slow dissolving foods and liquids that stay in the mouth too long – they give bacteria more time to go to work. Eat these less often and be sure to remove bottles and sippy cups from a baby’s mouth and crib before bedtime.
LISTEN to your hunger. Eating too often can lead to tooth decay. Aim for scheduled meals and snacks at regular intervals at least 2 hours apart. Kids need 3 meals and 2 to 3 snacks per day.
ENERGIZE with foods that support good oral health. Aim to eat whole grains, dairy products, vegetables, fruits and lean proteins such as wild meat, chicken, fish and nuts more often.
What Else Can You Do?
Taking care of gums and teeth are equally important to good oral health, starting when small children’s teeth begin to emerge. In fact, most dentists recommend a baby’s first visit should follow the first tooth. Be sure to brush and floss every day and visit your dentist for check-ups and cleaning. A healthy diet will promote a healthy mouth, healthy children, and healthy adults.
Good health equals oral health.
Questions about nutrition?
Talk to a dietitian in Saskatchewan for free by calling 1-833-966-5541.
For more nutrition information, please visit https://eatwellsask.usask.ca/.
Find a Saskatchewan Dentist
All dentists are required to be licensed by meeting specific requirements and training and it is often a matter of taking the time to find the best “fit” for you. A phone call to the office or a visit to the dentist’s website may provide help with regard to language options, location, accessibility, insurance and payment options, hours of operation, recall programs, and more.
Find a dentist
Choosing a dentist can be a daunting task. The best resources when choosing a new dentist are your friends, relatives or work colleagues who may be able to make recommendations. Other health professionals, such as your doctor or pharmacist, may also be able to make recommendations. Remember, all dentists are required to be licensed by meeting specific requirements and training and it is often a matter of taking the time to find the best “fit” for you. A phone call to the office or a visit to the dentists website may provide help with regard to language options, location, accessibility, insurance and payment options, hours of operation, recall programs, etc. If your general dentist is unable to provide some of the services that you require, he or she may refer you to a general dentist colleague or a specialist.
When choosing a dentist you may wish to consider if the practice offers the services you are looking for. A general dentist’s service may include:
- Routine checkups, fillings and teeth cleaning
- Prosthodontics (Crowns, bridges, dentures)
- Endodontics (‘Root canal’) treatments
- Oral surgery (‘Extractions’, etc.)
- Periodontal (Gum) treatment
- Orthodontics (‘Straightening of teeth’)
- Pediatric (‘Children’s’) dentistry services