Heatwave good news for oral health

The current heatwave may be beneficial for oral health.

That’s because Vitamin D, naturally produced by your body when exposed to sunlight, may help prevent tooth decay, tooth loss and gum disease.

Previous research has suggested the ‘sunshine vitamin’ could improve gum health, and a review of 24 studies spanning 60 years revealed vitamin D could reduce the incidence of tooth decay.

Vitamin D is essential for bone development. Although it can also be found in fish, eggs fortified cereals, dairy products and soy products, it is naturally made by your body when exposed to sunlight hence why it is sometimes called the sunshine vitamin.

It’s the first time since 2006 the UK has had six consecutive days of temperatures above 30 degrees and chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, thinks the weather could be a catalyst for oral health improvements.

Dr Carter said: ‘We have just been through a long, cold winter, which could mean many people are suffering from a vitamin D deficiency. Add to this the increasing number of children with tooth decay, and it suddenly it doesn’t seem as frivolous.

‘Teeth aren’t exactly bones, but they have the same problems if they’re not strong enough. If your jawbone isn’t strong enough to support your teeth, or if the tooth itself is weak and brittle, there’s a chance you’ll develop problems. The same applies to your gums. If they are inflamed or swollen, you’re more likely to suffer from severe gum disease, the largest cause of tooth loss.

‘There is a very simple way to prevent and treat gum disease, therefore lowering the risk of these general health problems developing. You need to make sure you remove all the plaque from your teeth every day. This is done by brushing for two minutes twice a day, morning and night with fluoride toothpaste, as well as using interdental brushes or floss to clean in between teeth where both gum disease and dental decay start.

‘Particularly during the summer we are more likely to have foods and drinks that, if you have them too often, can cause long term problems. Fruit juices, fizzy and alcoholic drinks, ice-cream and lollies iced-coffees and berries are among some of the worse foods and drinks for your teeth. If you’re going to have these, it’s best not to snack on them throughout the day. Keeping them to mealtimes is better than exposing your teeth to a constant acid attack.’

The dangers of being out in the sun for too long have been well documented, particularly in this heatwave. Dr Carter added: ‘If you are out in the sun, take care to cover up or protect your skin with sunscreen before you turn red or get burnt. Drink plenty of water too, as it will keep you hydrated and be good for your teeth.’

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