Snacking could hold back oral health

Constant snacking between meals could be holding back oral health improvements in Scotland, according to leading oral health campaigners.

New research3 by the British Dental Health Foundation reveals Scots do not know what snacks are good and bad for their teeth. More than half (53 per cent) failed to recognise cheese as a dentally healthy snack while a similar number of people incorrectly thought snacking on dried fruit (71 per cent) and fresh fruit (70 per cent) throughout the day is of benefit.

Constant snacking on the wrong foods and drinks means teeth have no time to recover from acid attacks caused by dental plaque and the sugar in foods and drinks, potentially causing long term damage.

The survey, which questioned more than 2,000 members of the public, was conducted by the British Dental Health Foundation ahead of National Smile Month, a campaign to improve the UK’s oral health.

Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, believes a basic lack of knowledge could be behind the snacking culture.

Dr Carter said: “Most people know and understand how various foods and drinks affect their body and overall health but many remain unaware that diet also plays a vital role in oral health. Poor diet contributes to a variety of problems in the mouth including tooth decay, erosion and bad breath.

“It is important that people become more responsible with their diets and encourage good eating habits, especially from a younger age.

“As a nation we have turned from three square meals a day to seven to ten snack attacks including constantly sipping sugary drinks. Frequent consumption of sugary foods and drinks naturally weakens the enamel on the teeth. If people do snack between meals, choose foods and drinks that do not contain sugar, limiting the amount of time the mouth is at risk.

“People should also consider chewing on sugar-free gum after meals, yet half of all Scots do not realise it is good for their teeth. If you chew sugar-free gum for 10 minutes after eating or drinking, it can help saliva to cancel out the acid more quickly.”

For more information on National Smile Month and to find out how diet can affect you oral health, please visit www.smilemonth.org and the Foundation’s ‘Tell Me About’ Diet leaflet