Did you know it’s currently National Smile Month? The annual campaign, run by the Oral Health Foundation, promotes good oral health, raises awareness of oral health conditions and provides information & advice to the wider public.
This week, we’re pleased to welcome Oxfordshire-based dental hygienist, oral health educator and self-confessed foodie, Rosie Wright, as a guest writer. So let’s talk healthy smiles, loving local food, and the latest tips on how to enjoy both a healthy, bright smile and your favourite foodie indulgences.
Generally, diet and nutrition advice from your dentist might be summarised as a spiel about what to avoid. This advice is usually evidence-based and preventative, but as much as we try there are likely to be times when we don’t follow these rules by the book! I for one would be lying if I said I wasn’t an occasional visitor to my local artisan coffee roaster to enjoy an oat milk flat white, white mocha doughnut or freshly toasted wedge of banana bread!
I’m here with Bitten to talk a little about our food choices, good oral health, and provide a few helpful tips on how to enjoy both good food and a healthy smile, along with local foodie recommendations with the help of team Bitten!
Rosie’s foodie tips for National Smile Month:
Let’s start with the obvious one, did you know that tooth decay (dental caries) is the most common disease worldwide! Yet it is so easily preventable. Let’s not kid ourselves, sugar found in our diet will cause tooth decay, but this also depends on plaque bacteria present, the time sugar spends in the mouth and the frequency of consumption. Your saliva works as a natural buffer to help neutralise sugar acids and this works better when you have the food quicker, rather than grazing!
So think of it like this, you are less likely to suffer with tooth decay from an indulgent slice of red velvet cake if consumed all at once, compared to if you had that same piece of cake split into smaller segments and grazed on it through the day. That’s right, you really can have your cake and eat it all too!
Natural sugar alternatives are becoming a more popular option in cooking and baking, these include the likes of xylitol and erythritol, both derived from plants and at a fraction of the calories. Both of these have also shown to have anti-bacterial and anti-plaque properties and can also be found in oral health products such as chewing gum and toothpaste.
- Foodie tip – Hunters Cake Cafe in Witney have recently introduced sugar-free options to their menu, namely their raspberry & banana muffins as a personal favourite.
- Toothy tip – Fluoride is your friend! Fluoride is the active ingredient found in most toothpastes and is essential to keeping your enamel strong and preventing tooth decay. Think of it as the SPF for your teeth; brush daily for 2 minutes to build up protection. When indulging in a sweet treat, follow with drinking water and sugar-free gum and wait at least an hour before brushing.
Diet stains on teeth
One of the most common questions I get asked is how to avoid diet stains forming on the teeth. To answer that, it’s good to know a little about why this happens.
Since my studying days, I’ve been a huge coffee lover/addict. My love has continued to grow and my current go-to barista order is an oat milk flat white, or an 80% cocoa mocha if I’m feeling a bit more indulgent! Unfortunately, coffee and cocoa contain naturally-occurring tannins; a sticky substance that adheres to the tooth surface, darkening the enamel and building up surface stains over time. Tannins are found in many food and drink products such as tea, red wine, soy sauce, turmeric, pomegranate and grapes.
- Foodie tip – we are extremely lucky to have so many great coffee roasters in and around Oxford, including (but not limited to): Missing Bean, Jericho Coffee, New Ground Coffee, and Ue Coffee. Do check them out!
- Toothy tip – My main tips for avoiding the darkening effects of these foods would be to use a straw with the drinks where possible, opt for a rechargeable electric toothbrush with a round oscillating head, drink more water throughout the day and to chew sugar-free gum between meals, snacks and drinks!
Dental erosion is the loss of tooth surface through acidic contact, there are a number of causes, however, the most common cause is dietary acids. The main culprits include citrus fruits, fruit juices, soft drinks, wine and chewable vitamin C tablets. Did you know that beer is the single most acidic alcohol beverage there is? Whereas Gin is the least acidic! It contains no sugar, it’s distilled and derived from botanicals such as juniper and coriander.
- Toothy tip – A calcium-rich diet is essential for maintaining strong bones and teeth. I always recommend a reusable/paper straw with acidic drinks as this hugely reduces contact with the teeth. Protect teeth with fluoride toothpaste, and always sip water alongside your food and drink of choice to continue neutralising those acids.
- Foodie tip – Check out Jacqui’s guide to seven brilliant local gins to try!
Good food = good gums
A healthy and varied diet is key for good overall health, but did you know diet is essential for a strong immune system and its role in fighting inflammatory conditions? Gum disease is an inflammatory disease of the supporting tissues around the teeth, and is caused directly by plaque bacteria. If uncontrolled it will progress to loose teeth and eventually tooth loss. Although evidence is yet to be conclusive, it’s thought that foods rich in fibre, Omega-3 and Vitamin C help to maintain strong gum tissues.
- Foodie tip – A healthy balanced diet is advised to try and keep everything in moderation, avoid processed foods and refined sugars. Opt for leafy greens, a mix of fruit and vegetables, beans, nuts, lean meats and oily fish. For some extra Omega-3, Pershore Seafoods in Oxford’s Covered Market and Alden’s Fishmarket in Osney Mead both provide wonderfully fresh fish.
- Toothy tip – clean between your teeth at least once a day using either floss or interdental brushes to remove the disease-causing bacteria, brush twice daily for two minutes, with either a compact soft/medium head manual toothbrush, or an electric toothbrush with a round oscillating head (remember not to scrub!) and visit your hygienist or dentist for regular gum health checks!
With the recent lockdown situation, access to dental care and advice has been hugely limited, I hope you have enjoyed this piece. If you have any more questions about your own dental health, make sure you get in touch with your local dental practice.
You can find me on Instagram @cotswolds.hygienist.