Mental health crisis in UK sees more children in A&E

Teeth whitening: Dentist discusses at home methods

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World Oral Health Day has arrived, and it’s the perfect time to rethink your oral hygiene routine. While brushing and flossing are both essential components of a healthy mouth, making smarter decisions about what we eat and drink are the easiest ways to improve our general oral hygiene. Swapping artificial, sugary snacks for natural foods is one of the most obvious swaps to make, but what else should you be doing for a healthier mouth? Express.co.uk spoke to the clinical director of Bupa Dental Care to find out.

How to boost your oral hygiene routine

Sugar is known as the enemy of good oral hygiene, but it turns out you don’t have to cut it out completely to maintain a healthy mouth.

In fact, even the simplest of swaps can improve your teeth and gums when paired with a solid oral hygiene routine – it’s just a case of balancing the two.

Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, dentist and clinical director of Bupa Dental Care, Dr Zaheer said: “Lots of people assume that brushing twice a day is enough to keep our teeth in top condition. However, we also need to think about what we’re eating.

“It’s not all bad news – just as there are some foods which will be worse for your teeth, there are some simple swaps we can make to better protect against dental decay.”
So what should you swap in your diet?

Cheese

While this flavoursome dairy product can be fattening in large quantities, consuming a moderate amount of cheese can actually benefit your teeth.

Dr Zaheer said: “Cheese has a number of benefits for your teeth, including high levels of phosphate and calcium, which naturally strengthen teeth and bones.

“In addition, cheese helps balance the pH level in your mouth, which means less harmful acid, more cleansing saliva, and as a consequence, better protection against dental decay.”

Swap your salty snacks for a small amount of cheese to improve both your breath, and the strength of your teeth.

Raisins

While both fresh and dried fruit are naturally high in sugar, dried varieties like raisins can wreak havoc on your teeth.

When fruit is dried, the concentrated sugar becomes tacky and sticks to teeth and gums – contributing to significant tooth decay over time.

Dr Zaheer commented: “People can sometimes assume that fruit in all its forms is good for you, but when it comes to your teeth, this isn’t necessarily the case.

“For a mouth-healthy swap, try eating fresh mango rather than dried, or grapes instead of raisins.”

If you do decide to indulge in dried fruit from time to time, it’s worth rinsing your mouth out with water straight away in order to prevent lingering sugar from damaging your teeth.

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Be smart about snacking

Snacking is a great way to give yourself a pick-me-up in between meals, but choosing the right kind of foods is crucial to protect our teeth.

According to Dr Zaheer, starch in popular snacks like crisps can get trapped between teeth leading to plaque build-up over time.

Unlike crisps, nuts are full of healthy fats which can help us produce saliva to clean our teeth and regulate the pH of the mouth.

Unsalted varieties like almonds are a great alternative because they are crammed full of calcium – the main mineral needed to maintain strong teeth.

If you like sugary snacks, Dr Zaheer recommended getting your fix in one hit, rather than grazing throughout the day.

Try not to graze

He said: “Regularly snacking throughout the day on sugary snacks increases the duration of time that your teeth have come under acid attack.

“This means that having a piece of your favourite chocolate after a meal, in one go, is better than nibbling on it over a period of a few hours.”

Choose chocolate over sweets

While it may sound surprising, choosing chocolate over sweets is actually a wise choice.

Sweets, particularly the gummy variety, are almost entirely made up of sugar, and their consistency means that they can stick to your teeth, putting you at risk of cavities.

Dr Zaheer recommended using dark chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth as it has less sugar than white or milk chocolate, and the consistency means that it will not lodge in your teeth.

Swap crunchy salads for leafy greens

Leafy greens like kale, spinach and celery are high in fibre and low in calories, which makes them great vegetables for teeth.

The fibre content in leafy greens helps scrub away food debris and plaque, while fuelling your body with calcium as you eat them.

Dr Zaheer explained: “Not everyone is a fan of greens but shredding some kale or spinach into a sandwich instead of lettuce is a great way to pack in some leafy goodness into your diet.”

Choose ‘lighter’ alcoholic drinks

Prosecco is one of the nation’s favourite alcoholic beverages, but this sweet sparkling wine contains just as much sugar and acid as most fizzy drinks.

Drinks like Champagne and Prosecco can dissolve tooth enamel due to their high acidity, which can increase the risk of tooth erosion, said Dr Zaheer.

Switch your favourite spirit and mixer combination for a lighter drink, like vodka and slim-line tonic – your teeth will thank you for it for years to come.

While these snacks are all tooth-friendly, it’s still important to pair them with a good oral hygiene routine.

Dr Zaheer explained: “My advice to patients is that there’s no substitute for a proper oral health care routine for keeping your teeth in top condition.

“This involves brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, cleaning between your teeth with inter-dental brushes or floss, and having regular check-ups with your dentist.”

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The number of attendances at accident and emergency departments in England by under-18s with a primary diagnosis of psychiatric conditions increased from 6,950 in 2010-2011 to 27,430 in 2020-2021. Campaigners say more young people are seeking emergency help and “will continue to do so as the full scale of the fallout from the pandemic is felt as restrictions end”. But they warn that the rising demand is outpacing investment and the NHS must be better equipped to deal with the “immediate scale of the crisis”.

It is even more acute for those over 65 – A&E admissions for psychiatric problems rose eightfold in the same period, from 7,318 to 60,375.

People attending casualty for mental health problems also increased for all other age groups.

Figures for the 18-24s more than doubled to 42,729, 25-49s doubled to 104,052 and 50-64s nearly tripled to 36,968. Emma Thomas, CEO of the YoungMinds charity, said: “These figures demonstrate that we are in an unprecedented situation.

“We know more young people have been seeking help from the NHS and will continue to do so as the full scale of the fallout from the pandemic is felt as restrictions end.

“While there is higher awareness about mental health than in the past, many young people still find it hard to reach out for help until they hit crisis point.

For those who do seek help, it can still be really difficult to get early support. Facing a long wait or not meeting the threshold for treatment can have devastating consequences, which means problems can escalate. There can be no clearer evidence that the number of young people needing help from the NHS is unsustainable.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We recognise the impact the pandemic has had on everyone, especially children and young people. We have committed an additional £500million this year to support those most affected, including £79million for children’s mental health services.”

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