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Are new diet fads wrecking teeth?

Blog Author Sowmya Simon

Blog Date 03/04/2018


What compelled me to write this post, is that the health and fitness movement has become one of the of the world’s fastest growing social media phenomena. With the recent boom of the wellness industry, there has been an influx in “healthy” food trends being displayed on platforms such as Instagram, with photographs of beautiful, colourful people, living their vibrant, colourful lives with their healthy, colourful diets.
Unfortunately, this has provided a stage for health and fitness professionals and non-professionals to broadcast knowledge and advice, often with no scientific background or knowledge. The information they are supplying to consumers is often unreliable, uninformed and heavily endorsed by sponsors.

Health trends such as the Paleo diet, juicing, and drinking lemon water are all on the rise due to their supposed health benefits, however these modern diet fads are having a detrimental effect on consumers’ dental health.

The latest Adult Dental Health Survey 2009 demonstrated an increase in both moderate and severe tooth wear, seen especially in the young adults. While tooth wear is part of the natural aging process, the latest diet crazes are accelerating this process rather rapidly.

Dental caries has traditionally been the greatest natural threat to teeth, but the rise of tooth wear is now providing some healthy competition. 

Unlike dental caries, tooth wear can be one of the most challenging conditions to treat in dentistry, and when severe, often involves complex treatment with referrals to secondary care.

Tooth wear can also be very difficult to diagnose, as in early stages, it presents with sensitivity and enamel thinning or translucency – something a lot of practitioners have deemed to be so commonplace, that we can risk overlooking it and leaving the problem untreated.

A good medical history is essential, followed by appropriate investigations and special tests. Baseline records including the Basic Erosive Wear Index (BEWE) or Smith & Knight Tooth Wear Index (1984), photographs, study models and radiographs can all be useful in helping to diagnose and monitor tooth wear.

A thorough diet history with use of a diet sheet is also key to identifying possible sources of tooth wear and dental caries. Here are some of the current diet trends to be aware of:

  1. Hot lemon water – known as the “elixir of youth” with many supermodels advocating this drink first thing in the morning, this is one of the biggest culprits of tooth wear. While supposedly good for your metabolism, this drink will slowly dissolve away the enamel, and when sipped on throughout the day, doesn’t allow chance for remineralisation of teeth to occur.
  2. Paleo diet – this diet is promoted as a way of improving health by eating the way our cavemen ancestors ate. Typically rich in vegetables and fruits, which are often eaten raw, the high sugar and acid content damages the enamel. Following this diet can also lead to an inadequate intake of calcium, a mineral which is essential for healthy teeth and bones.  
  3. Apple cider vinegar shots – this home remedy is thought to be a “cure-all” beverage that claims to aid weight loss and lower blood glucose levels and even prevent tooth decay. 
  4. Juicing – often done as a “quick fix” for weight loss. Drinking juices in place of meals results in teeth being bathed in sugar and acid at frequent intervals throughout the day.
  5. Protein balls –  a trendy snack that has now got pride of place on most supermarket shelves. Often a mix of dried fruits, nuts and seeds, the contents tend to stick to the surfaces of teeth and are less readily cleared by saliva, increasing likelihood of developing dental caries.

When life gives you lemons, protect your enamel - top tips

Here are some top tips to provide to patients with known or suspected tooth wear: 

  1. Avoid frequent intake of foods/drinks – try and stick to three main meals with minimal snacking
  2. Keep acidic/sugary drinks to mealtimes. Plain water is recommended between meals, and milk is also safe for teeth
  3. Rinse with plain water or a fluoridated mouthwash after consuming acidic/sugary drinks
  4. Avoid brushing for at least 30 (preferably 60) minutes after consuming acidic/sugary foods/drinks to allow enamel to remineralise
  5. Use a fluoride toothpaste (minimum 1350ppm) with desensitizing agents e.g. Sensodyne, Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief at least twice a day. Consider high fluoride toothpastes to protect enamel (5000ppm) and avoid toothpastes with abrasives
  6. For more severe sensitivity, rub desensitizing toothpaste on affected tooth like a cream
All in all, moderation is the key to a healthy, happy and balanced life!

Sowmya-Simon-120px.jpgSowmya Simon
Dental Core Trainee

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