Smile! Three tips for looking after your teeth

Our next blog is by Stacey Vas, second year student in the Bachelor of Nutrition Science, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University. Stacey has a passion for health and nutrition and is planning to complete the Master of Dietetics. 

This week is Dental Health Week and regular dental check-ups are important for looking after your teeth. What you eat is also important. Nutrition for oral health doesn’t have to be difficult and here, I share my top 3 tips for a healthy smile.

Eat less sugar

We’ve heard it many times before, but too much sugar is bad for your teeth. Why? Plaque is a sticky mass created by food debris and bacteria. When we eat sugar, bacteria in the plaque feed on this sugar and produce acids that erode tooth enamel. If left untreated, it can lead to decay in the deeper layers of the tooth. Once it reaches the nerve in the pulp of the tooth, it can cause pain and sensitivity which can lead to infection.

Sugar tips:

  • Avoid the obvious sugars found in lollies and soft-drink but also be mindful of foods containing hidden sugars. Some breakfast cereals, muesli bars, biscuits and even dried fruit can result in the production of acids that erode tooth enamel.
  • The Australian Dental Association suggests that no more than 5% (but less than 3% would be ideal) of our total daily energy intake should come from sugar to reduce tooth decay. This is roughly 24 grams or 6 teaspoons of sugar per day.

Drink more water

Staying hydrated aids in digestion and absorption of nutrients and supports the body’s natural detoxification systems. Drinking water is also great for our teeth because it helps rinse away leftover food residues that may attract cavity-causing bacteria. It also dilutes the acid produced by these bacteria, lessening the impact of acid on tooth enamel.

Water tips:

  • Choose tap water. It’s cheap, better for the environment than bottled water and, in most of Australia, it’s fluoridated. Fluoride is a mineral that strengthens teeth by remineralising tooth enamel and repairs damage done by acid. Remineralisation is the process by which lost minerals in the teeth are replaced to restore tooth integrity.
  • Carry a bottle of water with you during the day or keep it at your desk. You could also set phone reminders or install an app to prompt you to drink more water throughout the day.

Enjoy more dairy foods

The Australian Dietary Guidelines suggest we consume milk, yoghurt and cheese products on a daily basis. These dairy foods contain beneficial nutrients that help protect tooth enamel including calcium, phosphate and casein protein. Chewing on white cheeses in particular, protect tooth enamel from erosion because they help stimulate saliva production and neutralise acids created by sugar in the mouth.

Dairy Tips:

  • Choose mostly low-fat products and aim for 2 ½ serves per day (men and women aged 19-50 years). A standard serve is 1 cup (250ml) of milk, 2 slices (40gm) of hard cheese, ¾ cup yoghurt or 1 cup (250ml) of plant-based milks with at least 100mg of added calcium per 100 grams.
  • Limit full fat cheeses to 2 – 3 times per week and choose low or no sugar varieties of milk and yoghurt products.

Together with regular brushing, flossing and dental check-ups, ensuring you minimise the sugar in your diet, drink plenty of water and include dairy foods in your diet, this is essential for good oral health. Follow these 3 tips and you’ll be well on your way to a achieving a healthy smile for life.

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