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Eat Drink Think –The impact of today’s grazing culture on oral health
A greater proportion of dentate adults are engaging in good health behaviours, such as regular brushing, than ever before.[i] Despite this, only one in ten meet the criteria of having excellent oral health*, with approximately a third having obvious dental caries.i As a result, in the UK, caries is the most common dental disease alongside gum disease.[ii]
So why does tooth decay continue to be a problem?
As a nation, we are eating and drinking more often between meals. This trend is called ‘grazing’. New data presented in the recent Eat Drink Think report published by the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme shows most respondents (83%) consume at least one snack between meals and almost half (48%) enjoy two snacks or more per day.[iii] This data reaffirms results from a 2010 report on oral health by the European Commission, which found the frequency of snacking in the UK is above the European average, with respondents from the UK reporting an average of 6.7 eating or drinking occasions per day compared with a European average of 5.4 occasions.[iv] Taking into account this ‘grazing’ culture, it suggests that our oral health routines may not be sufficient and further interventions are required.
Brushing twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste is the most important method for preventing caries. However, the amount and frequency of intake of cariogenic foods and drinks influence our oral health.[v],i.
While reflecting on our eating and drinking habits, Eat Drink Think suggests that the current oral health guidelines – based on the assumption we consume three meals a day – may no longer be sufficient to maintain good oral health.
Especially relevant, the data presented in the report, shows that no oral intervention is made after 56% of morning snacks and 60% of afternoon snacksiii. The research shows if there was ever a time to introduce a simple low-cost preventative measure as part of a good oral health routine alongside brushing for two minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste – such as chewing sugarfree gum – it’s now.
In addition, independent clinical research demonstrates that chewing sugarfree gum for 20 minutes after eating or drinking effectively stimulates saliva. Consequently, this helps to neutralise plaque acid attacks that cause tooth decay.[vi] Furthermore, research published in the British Dental Journal shows that if all UK 12-year-olds were to chew one additional piece of sugarfree gum per day, the NHS could save up to £2.8m in tooth decay costs per year[vii]. Therefore, chew three pieces of sugarfree gum per day and the cost saving rises to £8.2mvii.
Also, Eat Drink Think found that two thirds of respondents were not fully aware of the oral health benefits of chewing sugarfree gum, but 42% said they’d be more likely to chew sugarfree gum after being told of these benefits.iii
Finally, to view the complete findings of Eat Drink Think visit wrigleyoralhealthcare.co.uk.
[i] Adult Dental Health Survey 2009 – England, Wales, Northern Ireland, 2009. Available from: http://content.digital.nhs.uk/pubs/dentalsurveyfullreport09. (Last accessed July 2017).
[ii] Steel J. An Independent Review of NHS Dental Services in England. 2009. Available here: http://www.sigwales.org/wp-content/uploads/dh_101180.pdf. (Last accessed July 2017).
[iii] Kantar TNS’ online omnibus survey (Onlinebus) of 2,743 UK adults. Conducted April 2017.
[iv] European Commission. Special Eurobarometer 330: Oral Health. Brussels: European Commission. 2010. Also available from: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_330_en.pdf (Last access September 2017).
[v] Public Health England (Department of Health). Delivering better oral health: an evidence-based toolkit for prevention. March 2017. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/delivering-better-oral-health-an-evidence-based-toolkit-for-prevention. (Last accessed September 2017).
[vi] De Almeida PD, Gregio AM, Machado MA, et al. Saliva composition and functions: a comprehensive review. J Contemp Dent Pract. 2008;9:72-80.
[vii] Claxton, L, Taylor, M, Kay, E. The economic benefits to the NHS of increased use of sugarfree gum use in the UK. British Dental Journal 2016;220:121–127.