By Dr Tamika Ferguson
Christmas is the time we celebrate the birth of Christ. The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of love, kindness and goodness. During this festive season we socialise more with family and friends, exchange gifts, attend parties, and eat to our hearts content. Even though it is a time of feasting, we must be cognizant of our oral health. Preventing caries is still of vital importance despite the season.
Dental caries is an infectious disease caused by specific bacteria that produce acid, destroying the tooth enamel and dentine. Caries development depends on four factors: a susceptible host (the tooth), substrate (fermentable carbohydrate), plaque (cariogenic bacteria) and time. Since we understand the aetiology of dental caries we can strive to prevent the disease.
During the holidays, the amount of sugary foods and drinks we consume increases. It would be wrong of me to say do not eat the fruit cake, benny cake, or coconut cake, instead, here are some tips on how to keep your teeth healthy during a time when tempted by so many enticing treats.
The four tips on eating your holiday foods yet maintaining good oral health are:
- Limit the n
umber of times
your teeth are
exposed to sugar
If you eat two slices of fruit cake throughout the day it is more harmful to your teeth than eating two slices in one sitting. Studies have shown that tooth decay is more related to the frequency of eating than the amount of sugar. This means the total amount of sugar is not as important as how often you eat the sugar. It is best to eat three meals a day, if you want to eat your Christmas treats, eat them directly after a meal. Each time bacteria come in contact with sugar in your mouth, acid is produced. This acid will attack your teeth for approximately 20 minutes. If you snack frequently throughout the day your teeth will constantly be under attack.
- Drink through
During the holiday season we drink a lot of sugary drinks, for example soft drinks, punch, etc. Using a straw can significantly limit the exposure of our teeth to sugar. Usually, when we take a sip out of a can, bottle or glass, we let the liquid linger in our mouths basically coating our teeth. By using a straw, this acts as a preventive measure and as a form of protection. The straw directs liquid away from the teeth, making the sugary drink less damaging to our dentition.
- Brush twice
daily and floss
In order to minimise the amount of plaque on your teeth you have to brush at least twice a day. Brush in the morning and before bedtime. Do not eat or drink anything besides water after brushing at night. Flossing is also very important. Floss is designed to remove plaque and debris from the tight spaces between the teeth. While a lot of people brush their teeth, many forget to floss. It is a small, simple step that if not done can have huge implications for your long term oral health.
- Eat dark
Dark chocolate has been found to be good for our teeth. Studies have shown that tannin in cocoa helps to prevent tooth decay by reducing plaque growth. It reduces plaque growth by oxallic acid lowering acid production. Dark chocolate is the least processed chocolate and contains less sugar than other types. Even though dark chocolate is better than the other varieties of chocolate, do not overindulge. Everything is better in moderation!
Should you follow these tips, you will not only protect your two front teeth but your entire mouth. So eat a slice of fruit cake for me and enjoy the season. I wish you a prosperous new year!