by Dr Luana O’Connor BSc MSc
Everyone is busily working every week and this can take a toll on our oral health, poor meal planning is the main cause.
From having breakfast at your desk, that dreaded craving for sweeties around 3pm when you know the day is almost over, and the tempting snacks on the way home to tide you over until dinner.
Most people are confused by the plethora of products claiming to be ‘healthy’ it makes deciding what is and isn’t right to eat. It has been proven time and time again that so called ‘healthy options’ have as much sugar or more than the average chocolate bar. Also inside some of those ‘healthy options’ are ingredients that a creating havoc with your teeth.
Dr O’Connor, lead Dublin dentist at HappyDental Ireland in Dublin 14, has decided to point out to patients how to avoid the dreaded ‘to busy to eat diet’.
There are some simple things which can do to preclude the worst offenders from ruining your oral health while working hard every day.
BREAKFAST – Dental Alert
Breakfast cereals, including the supposed ‘health options’ regularly contain as much as three teaspoons of sugar per suggested serving size – which is equal to several chocolate cookies.
Poor labelling of products enable consumers to be mislead by the ‘helathy options’ including choices like muesli which can be shockingly high in sugar content.
Inconsistent labelling means that even the ‘healthier’ brands can also be culprits and choices such as muesli can be surprisingly high in sugars.
You can overcome this by opting for low sugar options, wheat biscuits or porridge which can be sweetened with honey or fresh crunch fruits which will set your mouth up for the rest of the day.
We normally use milk when eating cereal but ProBio Yoghurt (PBY) should also be considered as an alternative when having breakfast cereal. The PBY is also know to decrease bad bacteria’s in your mouth which in turn restricts tooth decay and helps you create a more healthy mouth.
Drinking milk is also great for helping your teeth, as the calcium, mineral and vitamin D provided by milk can help your oral health improve and the milk will also strengthen and de-mineralise their structure.
Two of the worst offenders in this category are tea and coffee, which well known for causing staining between teeth, and over a longer period of time create larger staining, the tannin compounds build a layer, and the teeth can turn yellow.
Caffeine, in tea and coffee, which is a diuretic, will lead to the mouth drying out after consumption, which causes the bacteria’s in the mouth to multiply. This dehydration of the mouth is a major cause for people to have bad breath.
‘When you have drunk tea or coffee it is advisable to wash your mouth out with water to lessen the residue of tannins and hydrate your mouth’
I can suggest all sorts of healthy alternatives to tea and coffee, such as caffeine free green tea or herbal teas, but if you like your mug of tea or cup of joe in the morning just make sure you rinse your mouth with water afterwards.
By rinsing after drinking tea and coffee will also help minimise the yellowing of your teeth.
‘You can also swap tea and coffee for green tea’s which contain polyphenols, which have been shown to decrease the groth of bacteria which can cause cavities and oral gum disease and can also fight against plaque build up.
They look so good and healthy in the shop window, BUT a lot of sandwich makers sandwiches have added sugar to improve the flavour and the refined carbohydrates you find in white breads will contribute to dental decay because the sugars contained in them dissolve quickly.
When eaten, there is a surge of acid in the mouth and over long periods of time this acid will erode the tooth’s enamel covering. When eating breads the bread will take on a gummy state and this will allow small pieces to be caught between your teeth and they can be difficult to remove.
A healthier alternative for your teeth to white bread is whole-wheat bread which has been seen in some studies show that people who eat larger amounts of whole grain have lower instances of gum disease.
Dental decay can be contributed to by the eating of white bread, simply because it contains sugars that dissolve rapidly when eaten. Dr O’Connor indicates that consuming whole wheat bread products is healthier for your teeth as against white breads. One of the reasons for this is that whole grains are very rich in vitamins and minerals which will help to strengthen your teeth and improve our overall oral health.
Sandwich fillings which are going to be beneficial for your oral health are cheese and chicken as both of these foods are high in calcium and phosphorous rich which have been seen to protect and strengthen teeth.
We know whole grains are very high in vitamin content and minerals which will help us keep our teeth strong and improve our oral health – Dr Luana O’Connor
For all you lovers of smoothies and juices for breakfast you must be cautious as what you are drinking is not as healthy as you might think.
Yes, fruit is a healthy thing to eat, but ideally in it’s rawest form as this is when the healthy acids are more present in the fruit than they are after they have been processed into a concentrate.
Once fruit is blended, the sugars that are contained in the fruit are released from the fruit and if drunk on a regular basis can lead to tooth decay just as readily as drinking a can of soda every day. Also you will find in juices, both fruit and vegetable, a high acid content which will damage your teeth’s enamel just like fizzy drinks.
So the best thing for you to drink is water which has fluoride. Boring but true.
Calcium enriched milk is also good for you as this can strengthen your teeth and will also counteract damage which can be caused by the acidity found in fruit juices.
Another important factor to keep in mind is good saliva flow in the mouth which will help to create an alkaline environment which will also protect the teeth from acids – chewing sugar free gum will aid you in this area.
If you can’t give up drinking fruit juice Dr O’Connor suggests you drink it through a straw to minimise the damage that can be caused to your teeth.
Supposed low calorie snacks are being promoted such as dried fruit and popcorn, and in turn becoming popular, but beware neither are good for your oral health.
Even though the sugars in fruit are natural, when they are consumed there is no real difference between sugars from dried fruits and sugars from sweets and chocolates.
The sugars found in dried fruits such as raisins and apricots are very highly concentrated during the drying process and the texture they have after drying is one of chewiness which causes the sugars to linger in your mouth which can cause prolonged damage to your teeth.
While popcorn looks a healthy alternative it creates a lactic acid in your mouth which has been identified as a problem which can erode your teeth’s enamel and the unpopped kernels are well known culprits for cracking teeth and breaking fillings.
Ideally if you want to eat healthy fruits for your oral wellbeing stick with firm and crunchy fruits such as apples and pears, which are fruits with a high water content which lessens the impact of the natural sugars the fruit contains.
Part of your daily routine must include the flossing of your teeth as this will remove trapped food particles from between your teeth and discourage plaque build-up. Also using mouth wash and sugar free chewing gum regularly will also retard dental decay.
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Finally, you should visit your dentist for a check up every six months for a Scale and Polish to keep your teeth healthy while also checking for any damage which can be treated early and affordably.