22 December 2014

Diets. More than three million of us will choose to diet as a New Year's resolution, but how many people think about the effect it may have on their teeth?

To help you choose the right diet for you and your teeth, the British Dental Health Foundation spoke to three experts who run the rule over some of the nation's top diets.

Dr Ben AtkinsDr Ben Atkins, Clinical Director, Revive Dental Care:

5:2 Diet

The food itself is focussed around fasting on two days per week, and a normal diet on the other five days. To make sure that no damage occurs to the teeth it is important that:

  1. The diet on the other days reduces the frequency of sugar intake.
  2. Type 1 diabetics and diabetics on insulin really need regular intakes of food, so fasting on certain days really would vary the sugar levels in the blood, so would not be a great idea. I would recommend they avoid it.
  3. Reducing sugar levels within the blood for pregnant mothers would add extra stress on babies and mothers alike. Breast feeding requires an increase in calories - roughly 500 per day - and fasting may result in reduced milk flow. My wife would have found this really hard as often could not get through the night without a snack!

TIP: If you are taking Warfarin consult your doctor first. If you need a tooth removed, for example, the way your blood clots may be affected so discuss this with your dentist.

Dukan Diet

This is a high protein, low carb diet. This diet helps to lower the risk of tooth decay. However there are other things that may affect your teeth. Acid erosion from your stomach is an underlying issue. If you get heartburn after meals this can be a sign of gastric reflux, which is when acid from the stomach gets into areas it should not. You will need to keep an eye on this. One of the causes of bad breath can be the stomach producing gases which may occur when eating too much protein.

Paleo Diet

Also known as the cave man diet, this takes out foods that we have generated, and I can see a lot of positives with this one.

The main benefit for me is the removal of sugar, which for teeth this is brilliant. My concerns with the diet are the sources of essential vitamins and calcium, which are found in diary so if you were thinking of this diet I would make sure I consulted your doctor to see if this could be an issue for you.

Ben's Final Word

In my opinion diets are all well and good, but it is more effective to strike a balance between exercise and healthy lifestyle to help keep off the weight.

Janet GoodwinJanet Goodwin, President Elect, British Dental Health Foundation:

The Atkins Diet

This diet focuses mainly around meals containing meat with some vegetables on the side. This is a good formula for healthy teeth and gums, but many of the recipes advise the dieter to add lemon or lime juice for flavouring, which can be very acidic for tooth enamel.

The diet also suggests other products as alternatives in-between meals. These include chocolate bars, milkshakes also breakfast porridge, all of which have a very high sugar content and are not good for teeth.

It would be more advisable to have fruit, nuts, water and milk as alternatives to help prevent any tooth decay and/or erosion.

The Alkaline/Acid Diet

This diet is based on separating food types, and not eating them together in one meal: e.g. protein and carbohydrates, acid fruits and proteins.

The diet advocates eating the same type of food type together, such as a bowl of fruit consisting of lemons, and grapefruits with blended strawberries and blackberries poured over. Although nutritionally very healthy, this could prove very erosive for teeth if carried out on a daily basis.

It also provides recipes which contain acidic dressings on top of many of the main meals, probably to provide taste. Again the consequence of these being used on a repetitive basic could be quite harmful, and diluting them and using alternative dressings would be better.

The Cambridge Diet

This is very similar to the Atkins diet, although bases itself on more usage of its own products in the first few weeks of starting it.

The products consist of soups, shakes and porridge, although they also have a rice pudding that has a large sugar content. The chocolate bars are advertised as chewy, and are syrup, and caramel based, it is therefore more likely to stick to the teeth if not removed on a regular basis.

The diet promotes the use of herbal teas, and water flavouring which again if consumed too often could cause erosion problems.

Janet's Conclusion

The above diets gave information and advice regarding diabetes, obesity, and indigestion problems, but none mentioned oral health maintenance, or the consequences of too much sugar/acid in the diet on dental health. It is how often these foods and drinks are consumed that poses problems for oral health, not how much you have. The Alkaline/acid diet is perhaps the most perilous for teeth.

Nairn WilsonNairn Wilson, Professor of Dentistry, King's College London Dental Institute:

The South Beach Diet

Supported by South Beach food products and advisors, a ‘vibrant community' of fellow dieters and online interactive tools, it is claimed to be an effective, no calorie counting means of weight loss and subsequent maintenance of body weight for life.

Slimming World 

This diet is based on so-called ‘food optimisation', empowering and encouraging the dieter, with online and group support, to change their lifestyle to fit their diet - liberating ‘choicepower'. Results are claimed to be achieved through caring, compassion and respect for the individual. With this no foods banned diet, dieters are supported in making new choices that will ensure weight lose steadily and safely until they achieve their personal ideal weight, and to then stay at that weight for life.

The Slim-Fast 

A diet is based on the use of Slim-Fast food products with a total of 1,200 calories a day, comprising three snacks, two Slim-Fast meal replacements - a bar or a shake and one 500-calorie meal per day. It is considered best for people who wish to lose about 20 pounds - a goal which should take eight to ten weeks to achieve.

Possible Effects on Teeth and Oral Health?

No reference has been found to possible oral and dental effects when adopting any of the above diet plans. Assuming dieters follow the recommended diets and maintain, or possibly even improve their oral hygiene regime, as self-esteem and confidence grows with weight loss, there is no reason to anticipate adverse oral and dental effects.