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Dentists share festive survival tips for healthy teeth this Christmas

Christmas is a time most of us approach with wild abandon when it comes to healthy eating and taking good care of our teeth. With festive buffets aplenty, parties galore and the excuse to graze on edible delights for weeks on end, this can be a pretty traumatic time of the year for the teeth and gums. The good news is that there are ways to ensure your smile survives the festivities. 

To combat decay and keep tooth pain at bay, dentists have shared tips and tricks that will prove useful over the coming weeks. 

Our diet is the main problem when it comes to festive tooth pain. Many of us consume more sugary and acidic food and drink than normal in the run-up to Christmas and New Year, and this can take its toll. To lower the risk of cavities, infections and toothache, dentists encourage sticking to main meals, avoiding snacking on anything sugary or acidic between meals and opting for healthier, low-sugar alternatives to popular Christmas treats and tipples. If you’re partial to glasses of Prosecco, alcopops or festive hot drinks, for example, switching to a measure of spirit with diet mixers and cups of tea or coffee without added sugar can make all the difference. A recent report by Action on Sugar suggested that some of the most popular seasonal hot drinks sold at high street coffee shops contained more than 20 teaspoons of sugar. 

Another issue is dental hygiene. If you’re rushed off your feet, or you’re getting in late after post-work drinks and office parties, cleaning your teeth might not be your number one priority, but good oral hygiene is arguably more important at this time of year than any other. An effective daily oral hygiene regime should include twice-daily brushing for 2 minutes each time and cleaning between the teeth daily. 

Finally, anyone who hasn’t seen their dentist in the last 6-12 months is strongly encouraged to call and make an appointment either before Christmas or in the New Year. Regular routine checks can help to lower the risk of decay and gum disease, as well as ensuring warning signs of issues like mouth cancer are identified and addressed as early as possible.

Campaigners issue warning over staggering sugar content of popular festive drinks

Campaigners have issued a warning over the staggering sugar content of some of the most popular festive drinks sold by high street cafes and coffee shops.

Action on Sugar carried out research on more than 200 drinks, with shocking results. Analysis of nutritional information found that most had high sugar content, with some containing more than the equivalent of three cans of fizzy pop. Even vegan options, which were made without cow’s milk, were found to be incredibly sugary. Starbucks’ Signature Caramel Hot Chocolate with oat milk and whipped cream contained the most sugar, with more than 23 teaspoons. The indulgent drink also contained a whopping 758 calories. The sugar content is the same as four white chocolate and raspberry muffins. 

Nipping at the heels of Starbucks’ worst offender was Caffe Nero’s Grande Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate, which contained almost 60g (15 teaspoons) of sugar and 503 calories. In third place was the Starbucks Gingerbread Latte with oat milk, which has the same sugar content as 17 custard creams. 

Action on Sugar campaigners claim that customers may be unwittingly consuming alarming amounts of sugar, due to the fact that the drinks aren’t labelled and the perception that vegan options are healthier. 

As part of their research, Action on Sugar analysed drinks from nine different retailers, including KFC, Starbucks, Pret a Manger, Greggs, Leon, Costa, Eat, Caffe Nero and McDonald’s. 

Current guidelines suggest that adults should consume a maximum of 30g of sugar per day, while the maximum RDA for children is 24g for 7-10 year olds and 19g for 4-6 year olds. 

Holly Gabriel, a nutritionist from Action on Sugar, described the findings as “shocking” and urged coffee shops and food retailers to do more to reduce sugar content and improve access to nutritional information. 

Less than 50% of under 4’s saw a dentist last year, NHS Digital figures confirm

Figures from NHS Digital confirm that fewer than 50% of under 4’s in England saw a dentist in 2018. 

Data from NHS Digital, which was analysed by the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, revealed that 57.7% of children didn’t go to the dentist last year. Over 40% of children aged between 4 and 17 didn’t attend a dental appointment. The statistics underline a trend for leaving it too late to take children to the dentist, with many parents admitting that they take their child to the dentist for the first time when they start school.

Public Health England has launched a campaign to encourage parents to take children to the dentist on a regular basis from the age of 12 months old, but the latest figures show that many are leaving it much later. 

Professor Michael Escudier, dean of the FDS, described the findings as “disappointing” and highlighted the positive impact of attending regular routine check-ups. Checks only last a few minutes and they can reduce the risk of decay dramatically. In children in England, decay is the leading cause of hospital admission, and it can affect everything from general health and self-confidence to performance at school. Childhood decay can also contribute to premature tooth loss, which can increase the risk of dental issues during adolescence and adulthood. 

In light of the statistics, the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons is encouraging parents to start taking children to the dentist every 6 months from the age of one. Frequent visits improve oral health and they also help children to get accustomed to the sights and sounds of the dental surgery, which lowers the risk of anxiety.

Dentists urge parents to avoid Coca Cola Christmas truck parades

For many of us, the arrival of Coca Cola’s famous TV advert heralds the beginning of the festive season, but as Christmas approaches, dental experts are encouraging parents to steer clear of the brand’s annual Christmas truck tour. 

Coca Cola is once again taking its infamous red truck on a whistle-stop tour of the UK, visiting 19 towns and cities over the course of the next few weeks. The event is now in its ninth year and has a reputation for drawing large crowds. Despite the success of the parade, not everyone is pleased to see the distinctive lorry on the roads. Paediatric dentists have branded the tour “harmful” and accused Coca Cola of trying to drive profits in some of the country’s most deprived areas. 

Claire Stevens, NHS paediatric dentistry consultant and member of the British Society for Paediatric Dentists, said that the only motive for the tour is to promote the brand and encourage adults and children to consume “harmful” drinks. The entire range, including products that are sugar-free like Coke Zero, is problematic in terms of dental health, as even the sugar-free drinks are acidic. Acids in the mouth contribute to erosion of the enamel, increasing the risk of decay and premature tooth loss. The BSPD is supporting Public Health England’s stance that fizzy drinks should not be included in children’s diets. 

A spokesperson for Coca Cola described the truck tour as a “one-off moment of fun in the run-up to Christmas” and stated that around 90% of the samples handed out over the coming weeks will be small cans of diet or sugar-free cola. The brand will also be ensuring that under 12’s are only given drinks if accompanied by parents in line with its “responsible marketing policy.”

The Keto diet doesn’t hold the key to healthy teeth, dentists warn

Popular with celebrities and social influencers, the keto diet is enjoying a moment in the spotlight, but dentists have warned that it might not be as saintly as it seems when it comes to dental health.

The keto diet, which is a high protein, low carbohydrate diet, has previously been associated with healthier teeth and gums, but dentists are not convinced. Although the low sugar content of the diet is good news for the teeth, there are concerns about a lack of key vitamins and minerals. 

The British Dental Association encouraged those who follow the keto diet to be aware of the importance of a balanced diet, which can only be achieved by taking in a wide range of nutrients from different food groups. Dentists are also keen to point out that diet alone will not protect oral health, and that nobody will enjoy optimum oral health without a good daily oral hygiene routine. 

The advice from the BDA comes after a recent poll conducted in the US revealed that almost 20% of people have taken dieting advice from social media, with a quarter of those trying the keto diet. 

Professor Damien Walmsley, scientific adviser to the BDA, explained that fad diets can encourage healthier eating habits, but often, they can also pose problems by cutting out vital sources of nutrients. The keto diet is a very low sugar diet, which is beneficial for oral health, but it’s important for followers to understand that switching diet doesn’t eliminate the need for twice-daily cleaning and regular dental visits. 

Social media is awash with people claiming that embracing a keto diet has revolutionised their dental health, and dentists are eager to point out the potential pitfalls, as well as the perks, to ensure that those interested in the diet understand exactly what it constitutes and how it affects the body. Some of the information found online is accurate, but often, social influencers and celebrities are paid to promote plans or products, and content is exaggerated or falsified to make it more attractive to readers.

NHS England approves two cannabis-based drugs

NHS England has approved two cannabis-based drugs, which will be used to treat patients with epilepsy and multiple sclerosis in England. 

The move follows the release of new guidelines issued by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence). The advisory body explored the impact of cannabis-based medicines for a number of conditions.

The news has been welcomed by several charities, but some claim that the reach should be broader. For now, only two cannabis-based medicines will be approved for NHS use in England. Both have been produced and developed in the UK.

Under new NICE guidelines, doctors in England will be able to prescribe Epidyolex for children who suffer from two severe types of epilepsy: Lennox Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Both can cause multiple seizures per day. Clinical trials showed that the drug, which contains a compound from the cannabis plant called cannabidiol (CBD), reduced seizures by up to 40% in some children. 

In September, the drug was approved for use in Europe, but there was a debate over the cost of the medication, which equated to between £5,000 and £10,00 per year per patient. After drawn-out negotiations, the manufacturer, GW Pharmaceuticals, agreed to lower the price and NICE reviewed its stance, agreeing that the drug represented value for money. 

The other drug that has been approved is Sativex, an oral spray that contains CBD and another cannabis compound, THC. CBD does not provide the high often associated with cannabis. This drug will be used to treat patients who suffer from muscle stiffness and spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis. It will not be available for pain relief. Sativex became the UK’s first approved cannabis-based drug when it was made available to patients in Wales in 2014. It costs around £2,000 per patient per year.

British Dental Association busts common dental myths to promote good oral hygiene

Many of us have grown up following a dental routine or employing certain habits to protect our smiles. While being aware of the importance of looking after your mouth is undoubtedly positive, dentists are concerned that some people have been misled by popular dental myths.

In a bid to encourage patients to take good care of their smiles, the British Dental Association has provided advice to bust these myths and ensure people have access to accurate information about oral hygiene.

Surveys suggest that some people think it’s fine to brush just once a day, but dental professionals recommend twice-daily brushing. Brushing once in a 24-hour period is not sufficient to remove bacteria and food debris, and this elevates the risk of plaque formation. Plaque is a sticky film, which envelopes the enamel and clings to the gums, and it puts you at risk of decay and gum disease.

The next myth is that you don’t need to floss. While flossing is not essential, it is important to clean between the teeth, and flossing is one method of doing this. The alternative is to use interdental brushes. Brushing between the teeth reduces the risk of decay and staining, as it targets the areas that are missed with a traditional toothbrush.

Mouthwash is a popular oral hygiene product, but some dentists are worried that patients think of it as an alternative to toothpaste. Mouthwash should only ever be used in tandem with brushing, rather than instead of cleaning your teeth. It’s also best to wait a while after cleaning your teeth to use mouthwash so that you don’t wash away the fluoride from your toothpaste. The same guidelines apply to rinsing after brushing. Many people automatically rinse straight after cleaning, but actually, this is not beneficial for your oral health. Leaving fluoride on the teeth will help to make the enamel stronger.

Could a vegan diet put your dental health at risk?

More and more people are embracing a vegan diet, but is making the switch better for your health?

Although vegan diets are often associated with health benefits, it is important to note that any diet can be unhealthy if you choose the wrong foods, or the meals and snacks you consume don’t contain the nutrients needed by the body for optimum health. Many people choose to go vegan as a result of wanting to make healthier choices, but there are concerns that some are assuming that switching to a vegan diet will automatically improve their health. The key to healthy eating lies in finding the right balance and including foods that contain vitamins and minerals and the food groups that are needed to keep the body properly fuelled.

One concern that has been raised by dental professionals is the impact of a vegan diet on oral health. Dentists are worried that cutting out certain foods can increase the risk of problems like tooth decay and gum disease. Many people who have a vegan diet struggle to hit the recommended daily protein and calcium intake, and this could contribute to elevated levels of decay. In fact, some dentists have already reported an increase in the number of patients experiencing decay after changing their diet. 

Calcium is vital for healthy teeth and bones, but there’s also a worry that vegans consume more starchy and sweet foods, such as grains, seeds and fruit, and this increases the risk of acid erosion.

The advice from dentists for those who are considering switching to a vegan diet is to take nutritional advice from health professionals and ensure their diet contains the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that are needed by the body. In cases where there are deficiencies, it’s often advisable to take vitamin supplements, but patients should consult their GP for advice.

New study links watching TV to sugar consumption and decay in children

A new study suggests that children who watch TV on a regular basis are more likely to consume sugary foods and develop tooth decay. 

Researchers discovered that kids who watch over 90 minutes of television per day are a third more likely to eat sugary foods and 39% more likely to suffer from dental decay than children who don’t watch TV frequently. 

More than half of children who watch at least 90 minutes of TV per day have signs of dental decay and rates of decay are twice as high among children who snack on sugary treats while in front of the box. 

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, said that the study clearly underlines the negative relationship between watching TV and grazing on unhealthy foods and dental problems in children. Studies show that the vast majority of UK children consume too much sugar, and this is undoubtedly contributing to poor standards of oral health. Decay is the leading cause of child hospital admissions across the UK, despite the fact that almost all cases of decay could be prevented. In England alone, more than 59,000 tooth extractions were performed on children in 2018. 

In light of the findings, Dr Carter is urging parents to moderate both the time children spend in front of the TV and the foods they consume while watching their favourite programmes. 

As well as highlighting the link between TV viewing time and oral health problems, the study also raised concerns about the impact of advertising. Over 70% of children asked their parents to buy foods they see advertised on television and 69% admit to appeasing their children. Almost 80% of adults also said that they bought products featured on adverts, and their children are subsequently much more likely to develop decay.

Dr Carter is one of many high-profile health professionals calling for pre-watershed junk food advertising to be banned.

Dentists prepare for Mouth Cancer Action Month

Dental professionals up and down the country are gearing up for one of the most important campaigns of the year, Mouth Cancer Action Month. This year’s campaign, which is run by the Oral Health Foundation in conjunction with the Mouth Cancer Foundation, will launch on 1st November.

As November approaches, practices and health experts are encouraging patients to be mouth aware. Mouth cancer doesn’t have the media profile of other types of cancer, yet it kills more people in the UK than cervical and testicular cancer combined. In the last 10 years, the number of cases diagnosed in Britain has risen by almost 50%.

One of the most pressing problems for health professionals is a lack of awareness about oral cancer. Many people are aware of the symptoms of cervical, breast and bowel cancer, for example, but surveys suggest that a worrying proportion of people don’t even know that oral cancer exists. Around 75% of people do not know what kinds of symptoms to look out for, and this means that the vast majority of cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage. While survival rates have improved significantly for other types of cancer in recent years, progress for oral cancer has stalled and this is largely due to the fact that patients are diagnosed late. 

As Mouth Cancer Action Month looms, dentists and doctors are encouraging patients to look out for signs such as abnormal lumps and swelling in the mouth and throat, white and red patches, unexplained oral pain or bleeding and ulcers that take a long time to heal. Dental professionals are also keen to promote regular routine check-ups, which include oral cancer checks as standard, and to urge patients to get involved in initiatives run as part of this year’s campaign. Practices will be offering free screening checks and many are also staging events and hosting activities to raise funds for mouth cancer charities and get patients talking about this potentially deadly disease.

For more information about Mouth Cancer Action Month, visit www.mouthcancer.org.

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