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  Tooth Decay Prevention by Diet  
Dental health is directly related to an individual’s diet. The most common problem affecting dental health is tooth decay or dental caries, which can lead to more serious problems to one’s teeth and health in general.

Sugar has been proven by a number of studies and research over the years to be the greatest contributing factor for tooth decay. Thus sugar intake should be regulated or minimized. This is rather difficult, considering majority of the mass population has an affinity to sugary foods, such as chocolate, ice cream, candies, and other such foods. To add to that, eating is a social activity affected by many external factors.

It has been proven from scientific consensus that diet is more important after the decay set in, and the influence of diet before the onset of delay is just minimal.

Sugar classification

Before, sugar classification had caused a lot of confusion among the general public.

Fortunately, the U.K. government has introduced a new system to simplify sugar classification. This is now considered as the standard classification worldwide. COMA, the new classification, is based on the location of the sugar in the food or drink.

With this being used as a framework, sugar is classified into twobasic groups. These are the following:

1. Intrinsic sugars – This type of sugar is found inside the cell structure of foods like fruits and vegetables.

2. Extrinsic sugars – This type of sugar is found outside the cell structure of foods. Extrinsic sugars are also divided into two. The first one is called milk extrinsic sugar which is present in milk and milk products. The second is non-milk extrinsic sugar or NMES. This type is present in table sugar, confectionary and soft drinks.

According to research-evidence showed that this NMES is very harmful to the teeth. It is recommended to reduce the amount and the frequency of NMES consumption. Intake of NMES is restricted mostly during to mealtimes only, specifically four times a day for a total of 60g/day for every person. It should also comprise no more than 10% of total energy intake.

Evidence of dietary intervention

Only few good research studies have been made on dietary interventions. But the population based interventions showed that sugar consumption can be considerably reduced if given the right support. The importance of dietary intervention is meant for good health. The general health of the individual should be one of the target priorities. Like for example, dietary intervention must not lead to an increased intake of saturated fats. As it has happened in the past, people increased the intake of fatty snacks as they reduced their sugar consumption.

Guidelines are made to inform the people on proper diet. Guidelines for a healthy diet generally include the following:

  1. Eating a variety of foods
  2. Eating more foods rich in starch and fiber
  3. Eating more fruits and vegetables
  4. Eating the right amount of nutritious foods
  5. Eating less fatty foods
  6. Eating less sugary foods and drinks
  7. Enjoy your food

Dietary counseling

Making and listing down dietary guidelines are easy to do. The difficult part is putting these plans into action, as implementing these guidelines requires real work, especially when they are so many hindrances and problems to achieve dietary changes.

For the individuals to be more open and accepting to the dietary changes, a 6-step counseling program has been made and is used by some dentists. Here are the 6 steps:

1. Identification of high-risk patients – Dental information and education are given orally or through mass media like advertisements, posters, and leaflets. These usually provide prevention of tooth decay and caries. But there are also a large number of people or patients that already have dental caries and this group of people need more support. This group is composed of pre-school children, adolescents, and patients on medication.

2. Dietary history – Take the dietary history of patients. This offers very important information. The interview would answer questions of what these people are eating, how often, and how much. It will identify how much NMES they consume. Dietary history is also essential before giving a patient his/her medications.

3. Set goals – The main objective in these steps is a decrease of NMES consumption. But for goals to be achieved and attained, it should have the consent and motivation of the patient. The patient’s condition and circumstances should be taken into account, thus the goals must also be realistic and suitable with the patient being part of the decision-making.

4. Action plan – These plans are made to remove the barriers and hindrances for the person’s needs and goals be achieved. One should be inventive to be able to conquer these hindrances. An example would be to encourage the individual to eat fruits or vegetables instead of having sweets such as cake and ice cream for dessert. Eating is considered as a social activity, it is important then to promote family and peer groups support in changing dietary habits.

5. Review – Review and constantly evaluate counseling made to find out if changes are needed to accomplish the goal. Regularly visit and evaluate the patients to identify any progress made and any further counsel and encouragement is needed. These visits can be done in a weekly basis.

6. Refer – There are some patients who follow a specific type of diet because of there religion, belief, or medical condition. These patients with specific types of diets need more specialized advice. Dental professionals may be of little or no help to them. Because of this, these patients should be referred to a registered dietician.

These 6 steps are easy and achievable, but everyone involved – the patient and dental health care professionals like the dentists – should work as a team. Dentists play a vital role as they identify patients who need help. Dentists should be active in helping and encouraging these patients to attain one’s goal of healthy and desired dietary changes.

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