Tooth Decay: Australia's Common Health Problem
At Sailors Bay Dentistry we have noticed a disturbing trend in adult patients presenting with caries (tooth decay) that have developed rapidly and often within 6 months of their last dental hygiene or dentist maintenance visit. Without exception, these patients exhibited no evidence of decay at their last visit and all were practising good dental hygiene.
We were concerned as to why this would be happening and started questioning patients in depth about their diets. During our discussions, we discovered overwhelmingly that these patients had all been consuming diets high in sugar content. With this in mind and as an adjunct to the theme for the Australian Dental Associations Dental Health Week “ Let”s Stop the Rot”, our topic for this newsletter is all about foods that cause tooth decay and tooth friendly food and drinks.
Here are some worrying facts from the ADA.
- Tooth decay is Australia's most prevalent health problem and is five times more common in children than asthma.
- By the age of 6 over 50% of all Australian Children will be suffering from tooth decay.
- Tooth Decay is the second-most costly disease linked to diet, with approximately 11 million newly decaying teeth arising every year. According to the Australian Dental Association (ADA), what makes this particulalry concerning is that 90% of problems with teeth can be prevented.
The ADA blames the frequent consumption of sugary food and drinks as the most common cause of tooth decay with incorrect cleaning running a close second. The process of tooth decay begins each time you eat, when the bacteria in your mouth convert sugars in food into acids which immediately begin to errode the enamel on the tooths surface eventually causing holes or cavities to form.
Patients are often surprised to learn that lollies are not the only foods responsible for tooth decay. As part of the digestive process, bacteria create acid from any food that contains sugar or from carbohydrates such as pasta, potato chips, fruit, snack bars, soft drinks, pop corn, dried fruit, most breakfast cereals, peanut butter and sports drinks to name a few. Whilst these foods cannot be cut out entirely they are best eaten in moderation and avoided as snack foods between meals.
The most effective way to prevent tooth decay is to be aware of what you are eating and drinking, keep consumption of high sugar and acid food and drinks to a minimum and avoid them totally between meals. If you do snack between meals, choose either fruit (up to two pieces/ day), vegetables, cheese, yoghurt or milk. Drinking or rinsing with fluoridated water reduces the effect of acids and chewing sugar-free gum after meals also stimulates saliva which neutralises decay causing acids.
If you would like to know more about how to avoid tooth decay and tooth friendly food and drinks click here.