The chocoholics guide to healthy teeth
28 March 2013

Although we may not be quite as chocolate ‘verskrik’ as the Brits, who consume a massive 80 million chocolate eggs a year, South Africans love chocolate with a passion and their pockets – the chocolate market is valued at over R5 billion a year* with sales booming at peak holidays like Easter.
Poor oral health may be the price we pay for our sweet tooth – by the age of six years over 60% of South African children were found to have cavities* and worldwide, gum disease is one of the most common health conditions.

However, a taste for the sweet things in life doesn’t have to equal a dental disaster - gum disease and cavities can be prevented if you pay proper attention to your oral care routine.

Dirna Grobbelaar, IVOhealth’s oral hygiene advisor, explains, “Cavities are caused by bacteria in plaque (streptococcus mutans) that thrive in an acidic environment. Eating chocolate and sugary foods and drinks makes the mouth more acidic, feeding this ‘bad’ bacteria, which then eats away at your tooth’s enamel.”

In the interests of better oral health here is the IVOhealth guide to healthy teeth for chocoholics:

Rinse: after consuming sugary foods or drinks, rinse the mouth with a mouthwash that is the same pH as saliva and contains fluoride, such as alcohol-free Dentyl Active. “Rinsing with water is an option, not quite as effective, but better than leaving the sugar residue in the mouth,” says Grobbelaar.

Brush: “Brushing teeth twice a day for two minutes each time is essential, but it is not a good idea to brush immediately after a choc-feast, even after eating fruit, as the sugars contained raise acid levels and this temporarily ‘softens’ the enamel that protects the teeth. It is best to wait at least an hour before brushing.”

Floss: As two-thirds of South Africans don’t floss regularly, it is not surprising that 90 percent of dental problems start between the teeth. Many people say they find flossing awkward, but these days, with a vast array of interdental cleaners on the market that is no excuse. People with bridges, braces or gaps between the teeth may find the GUM Trav-ler tiny interdental brushes more user-friendly than floss. The GUM Automatic Flosbrush makes one-handed flossing possible. The ultimate in fuss-free flossing is the new Philips Sonicare AirFloss which jets a microburst of air and water between the teeth at around 72 km/h, removing plaque and food debris. “How you clean between the teeth is less important than how often you do it,” says Grobbelaar. “Make it a daily habit.”

For the more fastidious amongst us you can check how effective your oral care routine has been by chewing on a GUM Disclosing Tablet after you brush to reveal any plaque left on the teeth. Disclosing tablets are the ‘ultimate truth’ when it comes to oral hygiene and will help you improve your technique.

Grobbelaar says that timing also has an impact: “Eat your treats all at once or straight after meals, rather than small snacks throughout the day. It’s better to have a temporary surge in acid balance than a continual onslaught.”

Prevention is not only better than cure from a health perspective – it is often more cost effective. Grobbelaar recommends having a dental check-up annually and seeing the oral hygienist twice a year for a professional cleaning.

For more advice on how to keep even the sweetest tooth strong and healthy speak to your dentist or oral hygienist. For tips, news and competitions visit www.ivohealth.co.za or www.facebook.com/IVOhealth.