Diet Advice 101
The main way your diet can affect your teeth is by causing tooth decay or dental caries. It can also cause tooth wear so make sure you check out our section on(see preventing tooth wear.
The biggest problem is:
THE FREQUENCY OF YOUR SUGAR INTAKE DURING THE DAY
8 Diet rules to help prevent decay:
- Avoid sugary snacks between meals (most of the time); eating more at meal times will help do this
- Avoid sugary drinks between meals (most of the time); drink water instead
- Group sugary things with your meals (most of the time); particularly sugary drinks and sugary dessert type treats
- Limit refined sugars; that is chocolate, sweets, biscuits, ice cream, pastries etc. (i.e. not everyday, unless with meals)
- Substitute sugar in coffee and tea with a non-sugar alternative/ sweetener
- Keep sugar clear of night-time- nothing sugary right before bed and definitely nothing sugary during the night
- Drink sugary drinks such as sodas, juices and iced tea through a straw
- Drink water after a sugary intake to wash help wash it down.
That’s it- I’m not perfect and I don’t expect you to be. Just be good most of the time.
The reasons behind each of these can be demonstrated on the Stephan curve– If you haven’t already looked at this section, do it. Everything will become clear !
Tips for your Baby’s Diet?
Here are some things to consider:
- Breast feeding is the best where possible. If it’s not possible, then check the milk doesn’t contain sugar and don’t leave a bottle with a child over-night; this can do a lot of damage.
- Prolonged breast feeding beyond 18 months is best avoided and can lead to dental caries.
- Full cream milk or whole milk is advised for kids under 2; semi-skimmed up to 5 years and if you want to introduce skimmed milk, after 5 years of age.
- Weaning should occur at 12 weeks and sugar-free weaning is advised where possible.
- Fruit juice or sweetened drinks in any kind of training bottle/feeder cup is not advised. This simply allows the teeth to bathe in a sugary solution and can lead to a rapid breakdown of your child’s teeth. Occasionally is fine and good fruit juice with water added would be my recommendation, but water is by far the best drink followed by milk. Dilution is a good thing!
- Use only sugar free medicine
- Avoid valve type cups
- Low sugar will still cause decay only no sugar is safe
- Get onto training cups asap from six months old; this is because children should be getting the nutrition from solid foods at this age.
- Dummies (pacifiers) and thumb sucking- should be discouraged from the age of two or earlier if you can (I sent mine into space on a red helium balloon for the baby aliens- true!) since prolonged use can cause the teeth to move. The negative pressure created in the mouth from the sucking will, over time, cause top teeth to be pulled inwards making the arch narrower and result in more crowding. The top teeth may get separated from the bottom teeth, resulting in something called an ‘anterior open bite’.
Tips for your Child’s Diet?
Here are some things to consider:
- If juice is used, it should be sugar free where possible, well-diluted and not in a bottle.
- Even milk in a bottle for long periods will cause decay; it can be especially harmful at night. So diluting and a feeder cup is the way forward.
- School children have more independence and spending power and this can spell danger for the teeth. Try to avoid sugar hits at break times and on the way home from school except on special occasions- make it a treat not the norm. Watch those tuck shops and coke machines.
- Mothers often will say about older children- that they won’t drink water
– the truth is… they will if they are thirsty.
- Build solid meals and good habits from the start- children are not born with a sweet tooth- they develop a taste for it.
- Regular visits to the dentist are essential to build up confidence in the dentist and get used to the environment. Your child should ideally have been a few times before any treatment is attempted aside of a check, polish and fluoride. The worst situation comes when a child needs a filling or even more concerning- an extraction, on their very first appointment with a complete stranger. As many of you know- such an experience is hard to forget- so please don’t put your child in this position if you can at all help it. At the very least bring them along whilst you have your check-up so they can see what goes on.
- Are they getting enough fluoride? Check our Fluoride series for answers.
- Crisps (salty and fatty)
- Chewy or slow dissolving sweets (just all round bad)
- Flavoured milk (added sugar)
- Fizzy drinks (sugary and acidic)
- Dried fruit (sugary and sticky)
- Chocolate (sugary)
- Ice cream (sugary)
- Biscuits (sugary)
- Pastries (sugary)
Notice I said ‘restrict’- I am not saying no ice cream or chocolate EVER! I really enjoy it- just eat it in moderation and at the right times.
Tips for the Uni Student’s Diet
Here are some things to consider:
- If you’re a student, you’ll have many pressures on – I know! I was there for 6 years. Learning to live more independently- social pressures, as well as being expected to study and get the grades you need.
- It is not a good time for your teeth, needing to stay awake late for studying often means masses of red bull and coffee. Going out to pubs and clubs would mean lots of alcohol, sugary mixers and ‘alcho-pops’. Now of course, this is part of the experience but it needn’t be a time for your teeth also to take a hit.
- There will be late nights; there will be multiple coffees with sugar; energy drinks like red bull or V; pro plus tablets etc as you try to stay awake through the night completing essays and assignments. Just spare a thought for your teeth. Financial pressures and time constraints can mean your diet turns to ‘pot’ (that’s an expression not a literal suggestion). Fast food and ready-meals can easily become your staple diet, but they don’t have too.
- I work really hard and eat very well and I hope to produce a book called ‘The Gourmet Student’ pretty soon. Carry healthy snacks; try to think about the ‘good’ that such choices are doing for your health. Drinking plenty of water is the best thing you can possibly do- it helps keep you focused. Drink soft drinks and sugary alcoholic beverages through a straw, get regular check ups and read the simple dietary advice above. If you completely let things go, it can really affect your teeth in later life; that’s not taking into consideration the inconvience and expense of multiple visits to the dentist for treatment- it really is quite easy to avoid.
- I remember my best friend at Cardiff and his very first trip to the supermarket to get food. We arrived at the check out with our trolleys and (I am laughing about it as I write), he had filled his trolley and I mean entire trolley with cakes, chocolate, biscuits, fizzy drinks, pastries, pizza, muffins, cookies you name it- to the brim! With this big smile on his face he said… “This is awesome- mum doesn’t let me have this stuff EVER at home and now I can buy it all the time.” Well, this was a dental student (to be) and luckily for his teeth, his stomach and his skin were very quick to point out the downside of such a diet and the next trolley load looked rather different I promise you.
Tips for the Elderly Diet?
Here are some things to consider:
- Often the ‘elderly’ diet is the most damaging and lots of different things can contribute to this being the case. So if you are over 70 or have parents and family in this age group, what you are about to read is really important.
- It is a difficult time, often finances can be a problem; your health may have suffered mentally or physically. You may not be able to get to the shops to buy the foods you want to eat and rely on others to bring it to you. Your teeth and mouth may be a problem- you might not be able to chew your foods and enjoy eating certain things like you used to. Isolation and loneliness can lead to comfort eating as well as a dry mouth for which you want some sugary stimulation.
- I see a lot of patients whose attitude is this- they get to a point where they think, “You know what- I’m not getting any younger, I may as well enjoy the foods I like the taste of.” They eat cakes, biscuits, chocolate, sweets, sugared tea and coffee etc. It is like a child’s dream diet and there is nobody there to stop them.
- Unfortunately elderly teeth are perhaps the most vulnerable of any age group. Your saliva flow has slowed so its ability to neuralise sugars and acids is less- everything stays in your mouth for longer and does more damage. The ability to clean your teeth properly and maintain good oral hygiene goes downhill with eyesight, dexterity and mobility. Tooth wear over the years has taken its toll, and root surfaces become exposed and gaps between the teeth are harder to clean. If you are wearing a partial denture this comes with its own set of problems and plaque collects around it. More often than not your teeth just become less of a priority and I understand that, but because of the issues, the pain and the expense of dental treatment- these are problems you could do without. Continuing to be aware of your diet and hygiene and the increased importance that it now has, will allow you to focus on the more important things in life.
- Drink plenty of water, use artificial sweetners instead of sugar- have your packets of sweets and chocolate and the things you want to eat but don’t leave them, like my grand parents did in little jars everywhere, so the temptation to snack was all around the house. Put them away in a tin or cupboard and you will probably find you won’t eat half as many.
- See your dentist regularly- they can keep an eye on everything for you and let you know when your teeth are starting to decay, instead of waiting till the tooth breaks and you have to have an extraction and an extra tooth on your denture. This experience is uncomfortable, unpleasant, expensive and a slippery slope to wearing a full set of dentures.