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National Smile Month – Healthy Teeth and Healthy Eating

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It’s National Smile Month, one of the greatest campaigns to highlight good oral health.

The key messages from this campaign are:

  • Brush your teeth thoroughly twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste, last thing at night before bedtime and at least one other time with a fluoride toothpaste. When you finish brushing, spit and do not rinse the toothpaste away to protect your teeth.
  • Reduce the frequency and the amount of sugary foods and drinks you consume.
  • Make sure you visit your dentist regularly.

Sugar and teeth

Consuming too much sugar can cause tooth decay. However, the frequency of sugary foods and drinks is also important. It is advised that sugary and acidic foods and drinks are limited to mealtimes. Avoid sugary drinks like fizzy drinks and fruit juices between meals, instead swap them for water or milk. Dried fruits should also be limited as they are high in sugar and can stick to teeth for long periods of time. Some baby foods also contain quite a lot of sugar so always check the ingredients.

Adults and children are advised to reduce the free sugars, these are sugars added to food and drink such as biscuits, fizzy drinks, flavoured yoghurts and sugars found in honey, syrups, unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies. The government advises that free sugars should make up no more than 5% of the calories we consume.

How much free sugars are we allowed per day?

Adults Children aged 7-10 Children aged 4-6
30g 24g 19g
7 sugar cubes 6 sugar cubes 5 sugar cubes


Bite size nutritious snacks:

Plain rice cakes with peanut butter and fruit or soft cheese and vegetables

Plain popcorn

Raw vegetable sticks/breadsticks with hummus, avocado dip or soft cheese

Plain yoghurt with fruit

We can watch our sugar intake by making simple changes to our diet. Consume  water, low fat milk, sugar free or no added sugar drinks, opt for tinned fruit in juice instead of in syrup, choose no added sugar wholegrain cereals and top it up with fruit, reduce the quantity of sugar you add into recipes and try low fat spreads or fruit spreads instead of jams and marmalades.

Food labelling

When checking for sugar content on food labels look at the carbohydrates ‘of which sugars’ nutritional information. Remember this does not tell you about the amount of free sugars but it can help you compare and choose food and drinks that are lower in total sugar. The ingredients list can also give you a clue if the product is higher in free sugars, as this list starts with the ingredient that is the largest. Look out for other words used by manufacturers to describe free sugars: sucrose, glucose, maltose, dextrose, molasses, fruit juice concentrate, and corn syrup.

Download the Food Scanner app to help you identify products that are high and low in saturated fat, sugar and salt.

Keep your teeth clean, watch out for the hidden sugars in food and drinks and keep smiling!

Gopika Chandratheva – Nutritionist

Ghalia Nemri – Oral health promoter

References

Oral Health Foundation – National Smile Month

Oral Health Foundation – Diet and my teeth

NHS website – Sugar – the facts

NHS website – Food labelling terms

Vegetable smile