Diet and Lifestyle

Why are diet and lifestyle important?

Moderating your diet and lifestyle is the best way you can reduce your risk of dental diseases such as decay and gum disease. A few simple good habits can help to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible


Reduce your risk of tooth decay by:

1. Brushing thoroughly twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste

2. Cleaning between the teeth once daily

3. Minimising sugars in the diet (both quantity and frequency of intake) More information below


Reduce your risk of gum disease, or allowing existing gum disease to progress by:

1. Brushing thoroughly twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste

2. Cleaning between the teeth once daily

3. Not smoking (smoking is also the leading cause of Mouth Cancer)

4. For diabetics, ensuring your diabetes is well-controlled

5. Visiting the hygienist for professional cleaning 2 to 4 times per year


What are the important principles of diet for healthy teeth?

It is vital to minimise both the quantity of sugar in the diet, and the frequency with which it is consumed. For example, a packet of sweets eaten in one go will produce an acidic environment for 30 minutes. The same packet, eaten one at a time over the course of the day, will produce an acidic environment for 30 minutes per sweet – potentially all day. So a given quantity of sugar will produce a far more damaging effect if it is eaten little and often. For this reason, the following guidelines apply:

  • Any food or drink with even a tiny amount of sugar counts as a sugar intake.
  • Keep any sugar intake to 5 times per day, including meals, snacks and drinks.
  • Replace sugar in tea or coffee with sweeteners.
  • Try to replace sugary snacks with non-sugary alternatives, e.g. fruit, yoghurt, cheese, nuts
  • Chewing sugar-free gum helps to increase the production of beneficial saliva.
  • Standard fizzy drinks are extremely bad for teeth – they are both sugary and acidic, so can cause decay and erosion. If you must have a fizzy drink, reduce its effects with a straw. The best drinks are milk or water, followed by dilute sugar-free squash
  • Be aware of foods and drinks which may appear healthy but contain sugar – cereals, cereal bars, fruit drinks, fruit smoothies, dried fruit, some yoghurts (with syrup-based flavourings),
  • Never allow young children to take to bed a bottle of anything other than water. Even the sugars in milk become damaging when available all night.

How does sugar cause cavities?

Sugar in the diet provides food for oral bacteria, which produce lactic acid as a byproduct of their metabolism. This acid dissolves enamel and dentine and can cause a cavity in your tooth. Every time sugar enters your mouth, even a tiny amount, the bacteria will produce an acidic environment for around 30 minutes. The longer the teeth are in an acidic environment, the more likely they are to decay.