Being healthy is something that most of us aim for.
We brush our teeth twice a day. We go for a jog around the neighbourhood. We eat a handful of nuts instead of chomping on a chocolate. We see our doctor whenever we don’t feel well.
But are you aware that all your good work could be being undone by sugars lurking in the depths of many of the processed food items you consume?
Sugar is everywhere in supermarket staples, even some that might appear to be healthy on the surface, and so this Dental Health Week (3 - 9 August), we’re pulling back the sugary curtain to show you what’s really in the food you eat, and how this information can help you be healthier all over but especially in your mouth.
In other words, we want you to become more “sugar savvy”.
Dental Health Week is an annual event run by the Australian Dental Association which aims to make everyone aware of the key things they need to do to keep their teeth and gums healthy.
Hiding in plain sight
You might think that a little extra sugar here and there isn’t such a big deal, but the odds are that you are taking in far more than you realise.
Figures show that the average Australian is consuming 14 teaspoons of sugar a day, a whole lot more than the maximum six teaspoons a day recommended by the World Health Organisation for increased health benefits such as decreasing the risk of tooth decay, which is having a profoundly negative effect on Australia’s dental health as revealed by Australia’s Oral Health Tracker.
To help you get within the recommended range, and be healthier into the bargain, this year’s Dental Health Week is all about showing you what daily sugar consumption level looks like in relation to the food you eat, how to read a food label so you can see what’s really in your food, and how sugar can negatively affect your dental health.
Beyond that, we want to show how easy it is to keep your teeth and gums healthy by following a few simple tips.
If you're like most people, there’s not a whole of brushing going on. In fact, only 50% of Australians brush twice a day. The reality is that a quick, occasional dash along your teeth with a hope and a prayer is not going to cut it. As your dentist will tell you, you need to brush for at least two minutes twice a day, taking care to use a soft-bristled toothbrush (they're less damaging to your teeth and gums than their harder counterparts) to clean your teeth systematically along all surfaces, always brushing in small, circular motions.
Flossing (or using an interdental brush) once a day is important because it removes plaque from between your teeth which goes a long way in helping to prevent gum disease, tooth decay and halitosis ("bad breath"). It's not something that should be rushed either. Take your time, using a gentle side-to-side motion with about 45cm wound around your middle fingers and thumb. If you're not sure about the right technique, have a chat to your dentist who can show you all the right flossing moves.
Say "Hello!" To your dentist
If you have a regular dentist, and it is a good idea to have one since it means your teeth will get the consistent care they need, you should be seeing them more often than you probably are, with one survey revealing that 65% of Australians have not seen a dentist in the last two years. Yup, that’s right – two whole years. Sure, that’s extra time for catching on Game of Thrones but is it good for your teeth, and the health of your whole mouth? Not really. You should really be seeing your dentist every 6 to 12 months or as needed to keep on top of your dental health.
Eat and drink well
Beyond limiting the sugar you eat, we recommend drinking more tap water, avoid snacking between meals, instead sticking to three meals a day and concentrating on the good stuff like vegetables and dairy products. Of course, before you make any major dietary changes, first check with a healthcare professional.
How do we know the average Aussie isn’t giving their dental health the required amount of attention? Australia’s Oral Health Tracker, launched last year and updated in 2020, is a national report card on the health of our mouths and how this impacts how healthy we are overall. You can find out more about how healthy we are and how healthy we’d like to be at ada.org.au/oralhealthtracker