With Easter just around the corner, it will be open season for chocolate lovers. It is important, therefore, to ensure patients understand what eating chocolate means for oral health.
Such consumption, of course, leads to acid attacks, which can result in cavities and may also contribute to erosion, causing the tooth tissue to be more vulnerable upon tooth-to-tooth contact.
However, there are some simple steps that can help patients to enjoy a chocolatey treat at the same time as reducing the negative impact on their oral health. For example:
• The higher the cocoa content of chocolate, the less sugar, which will be less damaging to the teeth, as well as overall health
• Avoiding chocolate with sticky centres, such as raisins or toffee, as they are not only high in sugar but the consistency also means they stick to the grooves in the biting surfaces of the teeth
• Limiting chocolate consumption to dessert time or as a snack with a drink, such as a glass of milk or water to help clear the chocolate from the teeth, rather than grazing all day
• As well as brushing their teeth at least twice per day as usual, during this ‘naughtier’ time add a fluoride mouthwash to their oral care routine, administered soon after eating chocolate and rinsed in the mouth for one minute.
It is also worth noting that cacao powder is a healthier alternative to conventional, processed cocoa powder and perfect for home baking. Cacao is full of antioxidants, magnesium and iron, as well as free from sugar and artificial additives. It can be mixed with ingredients such as nuts, coconut butter and stevia or xylitol to make delicious, nutritious and tooth-friendly treats.
There are lots of tooth friendlier, healthy alternatives to chocolate available, such as dried fruit or sweets made with fructose, the sugar naturally occurring in fruit. However, their stickiness does mean that brushing the biting surfaces of the teeth after consumption is recommended.
With National Smile Month (19 May to 19 June) also coming up, there is no better time to get your patients to contribute to their oral health.
The London Tooth Wear Centre offers an evidence-based and comprehensive approach to managing tooth wear. To request advice, make a referral or for further information on the work of the London Tooth Wear Centre, visit www.restorative-dentistry.co.uk or call 020 7486 7180.