Feb 09

Three Surprising Dietary Tips for Oral Health

girl-g78e8ed77b_640Today is National Toothache Day, but nobody wants to have toothache or any form of dental disease. Although other nations joke about the poor state of ‘British Teeth’, data suggests that our oral health as a nation is improving. However, there’s still room for progress. It’s estimated that 1 in 4 children has tooth decay and misses an average of 3 school days a year due to poor dental health. Dental problems are the most common cause of hospital visits in 5-9 year olds.

In 2018, 49% of adults in the UK had not seen a dentist in the last 2 years. Post-pandemic figures are not yet available, but my guess is that more people than ever haven’t had access to a dentist.  Around 2 million of us have to travel 40 miles or more to get to a dentist, and around 1 in 3 adults have tooth decay.

I’m the worst for dental phobia so I like to stay away from dentists as much as possible (no offence to anyone reading this who is a dentist – I’m sure you’re a delightful person). A lot of oral health is down to genetics, but there are things we can do with diet to help optimize the cards that nature dealt. Most people know the general advice about limiting free sugars and getting enough calcium in the diet, but here are three dietary oral health tips you might not know about.

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1.      Take care with acid

Acidic drinks may be associated with higher rates of tooth decay. Most of you probably avoid fizzy drinks and squash, but acidic liquids you may enjoy include vinegar, fruit teas and even a glass of wine or cider. To minimize their effects, drink them ice cold, and only at mealtimes. If you’ve had an acidic drink, wait at least an hour before brushing your teeth, as teeth are more vulnerable to abrasion up to an hour after the drink has been consumed.

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2.      Bring on the Bacteria

We’ve been brought up on the idea that bacteria cause tooth decay and are therefore bad news for teeth. However, this isn’t true of all bacteria. Recent research suggests that taking probiotics may protect against tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath in both adults and children. The theory is that probiotic bacteria compete with the bacteria responsible for dental disease and help reduce their numbers. However, this is a relatively new area of research, and we know very little about which strains of probiotics are helpful, or which doses are needed. If you currently take a probiotic and have noticed an effect on your dental health, do let me know.

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3.      Don’t be D-pleated

Both tooth decay and gum disease have been associated with Vitamin D deficiency. There is also evidence suggesting that if you have dental implants and you are deficient in Vitamin D, there is a higher chance of early implant failure. Lack of Vitamin D may lead to lack of minerals in the tooth, making teeth more vulnerable to damage. Again, this is quite a new area of interest, but trials of supplements in people who are deficient in Vitamin D have been promising. If you are deficient in Vitamin D and you are planning treatment or surgery on your gums, it may be helpful to raise your Vitamin D levels before treatment, as being deficient at the time of treatment is associated with less good outcomes, even if you’re taking supplements. If you’re supplementing, remember to use D3, and ensure that there is sufficient K2 either in your diet or in your supplement to enable you to absorb it.   As always with supplements, use the usual cautions. If you’re taking medication, check that there are no contraindications. And don’t assume that ‘more is better’ or that any supplement is completely safe. Excess Vitamin D can and does damage kidneys.

Which of thee tips do you think will be useful to you, or did you know about them already? Do you have any pearls of wisdom to share? Let me know.

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