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Many factors contribute to a person’s dental health including their diet, oral hygiene, fluoridation of the municipal water supplies and access to professional dental care.
The incidence of dental caries (tooth decay) in children and adolescents in most European countries has been declining for some years . This is largely attributed to exposure to fluoride, primarily from fluoride toothpaste and improved oral hygiene
Carbohydrates including sugars from food and drinks are fermented by bacteria on the tooth surface, forming acids. These acids demineralise the enamel protecting the tooth which can lead to tooth decay. The natural salts in saliva neutralise the acid and help the enamel to ‘remineralise’ and harden again.
It’s not just sugar, other types of carbohydrate in food and drinks can be fermented by bacteria to form acid, for example natural sugars found in fruit and cooked starches.
Remineralisation is a slower process than demineralisation so it is the frequency of consuming carbohydrates that is associated with an increased risk of tooth decay.. Therefore it is recommended not to keep snacking on sugary foods or sipping sugary drinks continuously.
Dental erosion is the loss of tooth enamel resulting from direct contact with acid without the involvement of oral bacteria. Every time we eat or drink anything acidic, the enamel on our teeth becomes softer for a short while, and loses some of its mineral content. Saliva will slowly neutralise this acidity and help the enamel to ‘remineralise’ and harden again. However, if this acid attack happens too often, enamel can be brushed away.
Gingivitis is an inflammation (irritation) of the gums. It is common where bacterial plaque accumulates in the small gap between the teeth and gums and is not regularly removed by brushing. Gingivitis can be reversed with good oral hygiene otherwise it can eventually lead to tooth loss.
Good oral hygiene in the form of regular brushing, flossing and regular trips to the dentist play an essential part in the prevention of tooth decay, erosion and gum disease. Brush your teeth for two minutes, twice a day with fluoride toothpaste before breakfast and after your last drink before bedtime.
Dentists recommend eating sugary or acidic foods and drinks to mealtimes only. It is recommended that you do not brush your teeth for at least one hour after eating or drinking to allow saliva to neutralise the acidity and harden the enamel.
Chewing sugar-free gum for ten minutes after a meal stimulates saliva production which helps to neutralise any acids and can help to prevent tooth decay and erosion.
Dental health and Non-Alcoholic Beverages
The health and well-being of consumers is of primary importance to the soft drinks industry. We continue to advocate responsible consumption of our products. They should be consumed in moderation and not sipped continuously.
Non-alcoholic beverages (fruit juices, soft drinks (both carbonated and still), energy and sport drinks) are dietary sources of sugars and acid that may be associated with dental caries and erosion, if consumed frequently.
For non-alcoholic beverages, important factors to consider are:
- The composition of the drink: replacement of sugars with non-cariogenic sweeteners, pH, amount of acid, presence of calcium, phosphate and fluoride
- The mode of drinking: glass, bottle/can, or a straw, which may afford some protection if used correctly
- The speed of drinking and how long the beverage is kept in the mouth
- The temperature of the drink
Under normal conditions, saliva protects the teeth from damage from foods and beverages by providing a protective protein coating and buffers to neutralise the acids.