“Be a Mouth Keeper”: Looking after your oral health during the pandemic

5 August 2020

You’ve heard of ‘JobKeeper’. Now the Australian Dental Association (ADA) is urging people to become a ‘Mouth Keeper’ by putting into action a range of low-cost measures to look after their oral health during COVID-19.

It’s Dental Health Week (Aug 3-9) and the ADA is predicting a downward spiral in the nation’s oral health once the pandemic is over.

“Right now, there’s a perfect storm brewing for oral health issues with a range of factors coming into play,” said Dr Mikaela Chinotti, ADA Oral Health Promoter.

“Plenty of people are stuck at home snacking more on sugary treats, others won’t head to a dentist as they’re concerned about virus transmission or public transport travel.

“As well, some people have lost their job and can’t prioritise their oral health, and some states have restrictions on what dental procedures can be done.

“We already knew the nation’s oral health was in poor shape with one in three people having untreated tooth decay, only 48% of adults visiting a dentist for a check-up in the last 12 months, one in two adults having way too much sugar every day and 30% of kids having tooth decay in baby teeth by age five*.

“The pandemic will make this bad situation worse. For Dental Health Week we’re encouraging people to be ‘Mouth Keepers’ with some free or low cost smart tooth tactics they can adopt to protect their oral health through this difficult time.”

With the theme of this year’s Dental Health Week ‘Get Sugar Savvy’, the Australian Dental Association’s top ten tips for oral health protection without leaving home:

1. Brush twice daily with a toothbrush – it’s one of your best defences against tooth decay. But beware - brushes with bristles splayed sideways are due for the bin. An electric toothbrush isn’t necessary – and remember to brush gently as hard brushing will damage enamel.

2. Always use a toothpaste containing fluoride for optimum protection of your teeth. Children should start using fluoride paste from 18 months of age and be supervised until they are old enough to do it alone.

3. Clean between your teeth with floss or interdental brushes to free the trapped food debris and plaque that builds up, starting the tooth decay process and inflammation of the gums. Children need help to floss until they can manage it themselves.

4. Ditch the rinse after brushing – spit out the excess toothpaste after brushing but don’t rinse with water. This leaves behind toothpaste residue to continue providing extra protection.

5.Get sugar savvy and watch your sugar intake: the WHO recommends just six teaspoons a day – that’s around 24g, to decrease your risk of developing tooth decay

6. Be your own ‘sugar detective’: check the sugar content on the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) on food and drink – this may be per serve or per 100g. To make the content understandable, turn it into teaspoons. Divide the value by 4 as one teaspoon of sugar is equal to 4 grams. So, if the label says 10g, this equals 2.5 teaspoons of sugar.

7. How much is too much? Look at the sugar content per 100g serving on the NIP – if it’s more than 15g you should consider looking for an alternative with a lower sugar content – the lower the sugar the better - ideally less than 5g per 100g.

8. Location, location: When deciphering the list of ingredients on food labels, the higher to the top of the list an ingredient is, the more of it is present in the item.

9. Make it yourself: when you make your own foods from scratch at home you know exactly what and how much has – and has not – gone into it including how much sugar. What’s more, it will probably be cheaper than buying it.

10. Be creative with alternative sources of sweetness in your life such as stevia, and when you get a sugar craving, opt for protein rich and tooth-friendly, nutritious snacks like nuts and cheese.

“These measures will save you money and help protect your mouth in the long term, though
if you have any issues or concerns, always consult your dentist,” said Dr Chinotti.
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