The lockdown could be having a negative effect on oral health, as 38% of adults in England say they are snacking more throughout the day, according to the Oral Health Foundation (OHF).
Age is a factor in snacking, with 61% of adults under the age of 35 eating more often between meals. Also, 70% of families with children under the age of 5 are reporting more snacking in the household, which is more than double the number of households who aren’t living with children.
“As a nation, we have slowly moved away from three square meals and have adopted more snacking habits. This has been worsened during lockdown, as sudden changes to work and family life might have led more people to snack more,” said Dr. Nigel Carter, OBE, chief executive of the OHF.
“Snacking could be the result of boredom and the need to find a distraction that gives us a short-term comfort. The problem is that snacking can have serious repercussions for our health,” Carter said.
“When we eat or drink anything, plaque bacteria builds up in the mouth. This produces acids that attack the teeth, causing tooth decay and erosion. Usually, the mouth can neutralize these acids by producing saliva. However, constant snacking does not give the mouth chance to recover. This leaves us susceptible to acid attacks,” Carter said.
According to the OHF, 31% of British adults have tooth decay. Last year, 37,000 children visited the hospital to have rotten teeth removed.
May 18 marked the start of National Smile Month, the OHF continued, a campaign designed to raise awareness of the importance of good oral health. As part of the campaign, the OHF is encouraging people to be more conscious of their snacking habits and do more to help their mouth recover from acid attacks.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to protect teeth and gums in between meals is by chewing sugar-free gum, the OHF added. This helps the mouth produce more saliva, which is the mouth’s natural defense against acid.
“It is important that we are mindful of the harm snacking can do for our health and take actions to prevent any potential damage. By helping us make more saliva, chewing sugar-free gum can help reduce acid attacks in the mouth,” said OHF president Dr. Ben Atkins.
“It normally takes our saliva about an hour to replace the minerals that the enamel has lost. Chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after eating or drinking is a great way to increase the flow of saliva and help replace the minerals more quickly,” Atkins said.
During National Smile Month, the OHF and its partners will support the United Kingdom in achieving healthier smiles. The charity will be joined by brands such as Listerine, Invisalign, Corsodyl, Pronamel, Oral-B, Philips, and the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme. Activities will include the Great Big Brushathon on June 3.