It’s a known fact now that good health begins in the mouth. Back in 2015, I wrote a short piece (linked below) on how healthy teeth and how oral health is linked to overall health. Since then I have found more research linking many chronic conditions including: heart disease, diabetes, oral cancer and dementia with periodontal disease and tooth loss. First and foremost we have to prevent and delay tooth decay. As without strong teeth, you’re going to have difficulty eating and also be in pain! As adults, we can do our best to maintain healthy oral hygiene and eat well. For children, we can teach them these habits early on.
According to Public Health England nearly half of eight-year-olds and a third of five-year-olds have signs of decay in their teeth. This is shockingly high and can impact a child’s overall health. Early childhood tooth decay can cause pain, making it hard for them to sleep, eat or speak. It can also affect their ability to concentrate and learn. Children who develop dental decay at an early age are more likely to suffer from it throughout childhood. According to the National Smile Month Organisation (2017), dental erosion is a public health burden and is estimated to cost 5.8 billion a year on dental treatment alone in the UK.
Dental decay is characterised by the loss of mineral ions from the tooth caused by the presence of bacteria in plaque and their acidic by-products. Early mineral loss also known as demineralisation is only visible microscopically, but further loss becomes evident in enamel as a chalky appearance on the tooth – a white spot lesion. The process is when bacterial plaque builds up on the tooth surface when sugars enter the mouth. The acids accumulate in the plaque layer and start to demineralise the tooth. Acid foods and drinks, with a pH value lower than 5.5 can cause erosion. These include: fizzy drinks, carbonated drinks, fruit juices, and fruit. There has been a rise increase in soft drink consumption over the last 25 years. Moreover, many drinks have added sugars to them, which is further detrimental to teeth health. Drinking fruit juices is not a healthier option over drinking fizzy drinks as both are harmful to teeth.
There are a number of things you can do to improve you and your children’s oral health:
- Ensuring you brush teeth, twice a day. Last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, with fluoride toothpaste. Use a small-headed brush with soft bristles that can reach the back teeth too.
- Taking your children and yourself to the dentist frequently. Their healthcare in free so instilling the importance of this is important.
- Avoiding or reducing consumption of fizzy drinks and sodas. Opting to choose still water drinks and encouraging them to drink more water.
- Finish a meal with cheese or milk as this helps neutralise the acids from food and drinks.
- Waiting at least one hour after eating or drinking anything acidic before brushing teeth. This gives your teeth time to build up their mineral content again.