Health and Family Services Cabinet
Make the Link Between Nutrition and Oral Health
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month
Dental health and total well-being go hand-in-hand.
The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) has long recognized this connection, but many Kentuckians, particularly children and teenagers, don’t.
Products like sugar-filled sodas, sweetened beverages and unhealthy snacks are excessively consumed in the United States and it’s showing up in dentist offices everywhere.
“Although people are generally aware the foods we choose affect our overall health, they often are not aware of the impact the choices have on their teeth and gums,” said James Cecil, D.M.D., administrator of the state Oral Health Program. “In addition to the oral health concerns regarding the consumption of sugary drinks and unhealthy snacks, these foods may be contributing to weight gain and obesity.”
Cecil said eating patterns and food choices are important in preventing tooth decay. When bacteria (plaque) come into contact with sugar or starch in the mouth, acid is produced, which attacks and damages the teeth in as quickly as 20 minutes.
“Our goal is to change the way people think about food in connection to their dental health,” said Cecil.
During National Children’s Dental Health Month, the American Dental Association and DPH are focusing on the impact good nutrition has on your teeth. The organizations are targeting teens to reduce their consumption of sugar-filled soft drinks, emphasizing overwhelming statistics on sugar consumption and other unhealthy eating habits.
For example, the association reports the average teenage boy drinks 81 gallons of soft drinks per year, with some sodas containing as much as 11 teaspoons of sugar per can.
The association, along with DPH, has begun a public awareness campaign to stress the importance of sound dental health practices and a healthy diet, crucial building blocks for good oral health.
Some tips emphasized are:
· Brushing and flossing teeth as directed
· Eating a healthy diet
· Limiting consumption of sugar-filled sodas and sweetened beverages
· Drinking water more often
· Limiting eating and drinking between meals
· Choosing healthy, non-sticky foods for snacks that are low in refined sugar.
Some snack ideas for good nutrition and oral health are:
· Low-fat popcorn (in moderation)
· Fresh fruits and vegetables (for infants/toddlers make sure fruits and vegetables are age-appropriate and well-chopped)
· Low-fat dairy products
Adapted from: American Dental Association, National Children’s Dental Health Month, Connecticut Department for Public Health, Open Wide.
More information can be found at www.ada.org; www.eatright.org; www.mypyramid.gov; www.dph.state.ct.us.