HUNTER residents turning to sweet treats to cope with COVID related stress have been urged to think of their dental health and opt for healthier alternatives.
Australian Dental Association NSW president Dr Kathleen Matthews said many people turn to comfort food when tired, stressed, anxious or to boost mood or energy levels.
"The pitfall is that sometimes we are consuming more sugar than we realise, particularly in sugar sweetened beverages," Dr Matthews said at the start of Dental Health Week.
Sugar causes tooth decay.
"As a society we've accepted that creep of convenience food and cheap food that often has sugar as one of its major ingredients.
"It's possible we're going to look back and think 'Golly, chocolate biscuits sold like hot cakes during this winter' and that's natural and human. '
"So this is not the ADA scolding people, this is us saying 'Let's everyone be careful and think about those comfort foods we all like and what we could be doing to negate that'."
Dr Matthews said the latest NSW Health data shows more than 90,000 adults are waiting for public dental treatment.
Of the almost 20,000 potentially preventable hospitalisations for dental conditions in NSW in 2017-18, more than 1200 were in the Hunter.
She said this would have included children with more decay than could be managed while they were awake.
Dr Matthews said things people could do - besides brushing and flossing twice a day - to ensure their dental health does not deteriorate include checking labels for sugar per 100 grams and choosing alternatives; replacing snacking with other habits such as exercising;limiting intake of sugary foods to certain times such as weekends; and removing a third of sugar in recipes or choosing low-sugar recipes.
Dr Matthews said soft drinks, juices and fruit drinks; muesli bars; and sticky fruit-based snacks were among the worst for teeth.
She said if choosing these, people should use a straw to prevent "bathing" teeth in sugar; drink water afterwards to dilute sugar; or chew sugar-free gum to produce saliva.
She said people may choose to have soft drink only when eating, "because when you eat food you are also chewing which produces saliva, which is more active in buffering or reducing the acidity and the activity of the sugar in your mouth".
She said parents should fill children's sport drink bottles with tap water only.
She said parents also needed to play a more active role in brushing children's teeth until they're about 10.
"You want toothpaste on their toothbrush twice a day and you want them applying it in their mouth. I would say as a parent you need to be contributing to at least one of those cleans a day physically [preferably at night]."
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