Food and drink to eat or avoid, what to look out for on supermarket labels, which drinks to order at the pub… ten tips for people looking to work at improving their dental health during the working day and beyond

There is a wealth of different information about food and drink on the website of oral health charity the British Dental Health Foundation.

If you collect all the information together you can plan how to look after your teeth throughout your working day. If you are in doubt over how your diet may be affecting your teeth, your local dental hygienist will be more than happy to help.

Putney dentist Glafcos Tombolis, who runs Ethicare dental practice in London, surprisingly reveals that patients do not ask for dietary advice but that this “does not stop us from giving it”!

Dr. Tombolis explains how important it is to look after your teeth by paying heed to your diet by saying: “the most common disease process though that we have to treat is dental decay caused by high sugar content in the diet, acid erosion is also something that we commonly have to deal with”.

So it’s clearly a good idea to draw up a plan of action. Before you do it is best to bear in mind that the higher the pH value of a type of food or drink, the higher the alkaline content – alkaline food and drink counter-balances the harmful effects

of many foods with high acidic (and low pH) levels – reducing the risk of acid erosion. And decay and acid erosion are clearly things you want to minimise from waking up to going to bed…

  1. Breakfast – the British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF) advises that people should brush their teeth before breakfast. Going to work on a piece of white bread is not a bad idea as toast-lovers’ most popular bread has a low acidic value of 5.0 to 6.0. Fruit tea has a moderately acidic level of 4.2 so it’s okay to take a few gulps before joining the commuter rush.
  2. Day time lubrication – when you do arrive at work, head for the water cooler rather than grabbing a coke from the vending machine. Still water has an excellent pH level of (7.6); cola has a high acidic rating of 2.5. If you’re too busy to leave your desk then a bottle of sparkling water is an excellent alternative (7.4). The BDHF suggests that diluted sugar-free squashes “are the safest alternative to water and milk” and advises that the drink is diluted one part cordial to ten parts water – quite a savage ratio but it will mean your bottle of squash will last longer!
  3. Snacks – try to avoid the temptation to snack during the day; the BDHF advises “it is better for your teeth to eat three meals a day, instead of having seven to ten snack attacks”. But if you do then try to stick to raw vegetables, nuts and breadsticks.
  4. After lunch – you will want to freshen your breath but few people take a toothbrush into work. Chewing gum (it has to be sugar free) is an excellent alternative. This popular newsagent’s counter item will make your mouth produce saliva which counter-acts the acid in your mouth following eating or drinking.
  5. At the pub after work – it can be a dilemma when you want to show your work mates that you can let your hair down but you don’t want to do too much damage to your teeth. Try to avoid wine (2.5) and cider (2.9 to 3.3) and instead plump for lager (4.4) or gin and tonic (6.9).
  6. Eating out or staying in – if you’re eating at the pub and think you’re being healthy by ordering a salad then beware of ordering vinaigrette salad dressing (it has a highly acidic pH rating of 2.0). If you’re making a late night of it then grabbing a hot dog (6.2) at the burger van is surprisingly better than cooking some highly-acidic pasta (3.0) when you stumble in through the door.
  7. Supermarket shopping after work – when reading food labels, don’t forget that the comforting phrase ‘no added sugar’ does not mean that the item being scanned through the till has no sugar in it – it only means that no sugar has been added. Foods with naturally-occurring sugar in them, such as dried fruit, can increase your chances of suffering from tooth decay.
  8. Evening meal – if you are forsaking the pub for an evening spent cooking a proper meal then including some brown rice (6.0) somewhere on your plate is not a bad idea.
  9. Ditch the After Eight mints – cheese’s high alkaline content makes it the ideal snack to end a meal with. If you are having fruit and cheese following dinner then eat the fruit (high acid content) first followed by the cheese (high alkaline content). Feta cheese (pH level 5.0 to 6.1) is better than cottage cheese (4.1 to 5.4).
  10. Final brush strokes – brush your teeth last thing at night. When you are blissfully sleeping your flow of saliva slows down – leaving the mouth more vulnerable to decay. Brushing before going to bed will ensure that you won’t cancel out all the good work you have done looking after your teeth during the day.

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