This month is National Smile Month (www.nationalsmilemonth.org) a campaign organised by the British Dental Foundation to remind us all about the importance of looking after our teeth.
A healthy smile is a great asset, it can make you look more attractive, feel more confident, appear younger, more approachable and more successful but the benefits of looking after your teeth and gums extends way beyond the Hollywood Smile. Poor oral hygiene has been linked with increased risk of dementia, heart disease stroke, certain types of cancer, infertility, complications in pregnancy and impotence.
Regular brushing, flossing and using a fluoride containing mouth wash are an absolute must but the road to healthy teeth and gums doesn’t end there – you also need to pay attention to your diet.
Some food and drinks like strong tea, coffee, red wine, liquorice, curry, beetroot and blackcurrant can stain the surface of your teeth, so if you want to keep your pearly whites pearly white consume these things in moderation and when you do swill your mouth out with water after you’ve finished eating or chew some sugar free gum.
Although most of us think about sugar as the number one enemy when it comes to our teeth the real threat comes from acidic food and drinks such as fruit, fruit juice and fizzy soft drinks, even diet free fizzy drinks, which damage teeth by weakening the tooth enamel, the hard, protective coating, which protects the sensitive dentine beneath. When the enamel is worn away the dentine is exposed, allowing decay to spread more rapidly through the tooth leading to infection, inflammation, pain, sensitivity and eventually the formation of an abscess.
But it’s not just presence of fermentable carbs, sugar or the acidity of the food and drinks we consume that we need to think about, the physical charactistics of a food, particular how sticky it is and how long it clings to the teeth and frequency with which we expose our teeth to these foods are also important.
Each time we eat or sip a drink containing carbohydrate or sugar, decay-causing bacteria present on the teeth start to produce acid. This continues for 20 to 30 minutes after eating or drinking, longer if food sticks around the teeth. In between periods of eating and drinking saliva works to neutralise the acids and assist in the process of remineralisation but if you are constantly snacking or sipping throughout the day the tooth enamel doesn’t have a chance to remineralise completely and caries can start to occur.
But not everything we eat is bad for our teeth some foods help protect against tooth decay. Eating a piece of hard cheese at the end of a meal, for instance, increases the flow of saliva which will help to neutralise acid. Dairy products also contain minerals such as calcium, which protect the teeth against demineralisation. Chewing sugar-free gum after eating will also help stimulate the production of saliva, which helps to neutralise plaque acid.
Tips for Healthy Teeth and Gums
þ Brush your teeth for 2 minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
þ Clean between your teeth using dental floss to remove plaque and food deposits.
þ Use a fluoride based mouthwash to help re-mineralise tooth enamel and kill plaque forming bacteria.
þ Consume acidic or sweetened drinks such as orange juice with meals rather than in between meals. Avoid brushing your teeth for 20minutes after eating or drinking acidic food or drink. Swill your mouth out with water as soon as you’ve finished eating these foods
þ Chew sugar-free gum for 10minutes after meals helps to stimulate the production of saliva. Some chewing gums contain a sugar-free sweetener called xylitol, which suppresses caries forming bacteria
þ Eat a balanced diet, rich in wholegrain cereals, beans, pulses, fruits, vegetables, lean meat/fish and dairy products.
þ If you want to snack between meals choose tooth friendly snacks like yoghurt or raw vegetables
þ Limit your intake of sweet foods like biscuits, cakes, chocolate and sweets.
þ If you can’t brush your teeth after meals eating a stick of celery will help clean your teeth
þ Visit your dentist and dental hygienist regularly.
You can absorb around 30% more carotene from cooked carrots than raw.
Studies show that when tomatoes and broccoli are eaten at the same meal their cancer fighting effects are enhanced and greater than if they are eaten separately.
Gram for gram, watercress contains 12 times more vitamin C than lettuce and more iron than spinach.
Peanut butter was first made in 1890 by a doctor in St Louis, USA who started grinding peanuts as a nutritious meat substitute for people who couldn’t chew meat because they had poor teeth.
Although olives are classified as a fruit, you would need to eat around 30 olives for it to count as one portion.
Nutritionally there is no significant difference between black and green olives. The colour of olives is determined by the ripeness of the fruit when it is picked.
Stories regarding diet and nutrition can become a little dry if thought, insight and passion aren’t put into them. Fiona packs them in in droves and brings any topic she is commenting on to life.
It’s hard to find a nutritionist who cares as much about delicious food as I do but Fiona does. She understands that while I want my food to be healthy I also want it to be delicious so when we worked together on Skinny Weeks, Weekend Feasts she worked with me to make sure the recipes were healthy but stayed true to themselves. Beyond that, she’s great fun and super to work with.
I love working with Fiona because she has that rare ability to marry nutrition, PR and media all together. Her incredible knowledge of nutrition and her creativity makes her a dream for any PR to work with. With her journalism background she always meets deadlines and in my opinion exceeds the brief always.