18 MAY 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has changed many aspects of life, but it could also be having a significant impact on the health of the mouth, according to a leading charity. 

New research by the Oral Health Foundation shows staying at home has led to more than one-in-three (38%) British adults increasing the amount of times they are snacking throughout the day.

Since lockdown, snacking has risen considerably in younger adults.  Nearly two-in-three (61%) under 35s admit they are now eating more often in between meals.

Snacking has also risen amongst families with younger children.  Seven-in-ten families (70%) with children under five are reporting more snacking in the household.  This is more than double compared with those who are not living with children.

The Oral Health Foundation is worried about the damage snacking in between meals can have on the nation’s oral health.  The charity’s Chief Executive, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, says: “As a nation we have slowly moved away from three square meals and have adopted more snacking habits.  This has been worsened during lockdown, as sudden changes to work and family life might have led more people to snack more.

“Snacking could be the result of boredom and the need to find a distraction that gives us a short-term comfort.  The problem is that snacking can have serious repercussions for our health.

“Whenever we eat or drink anything, plaque bacteria builds up in the mouth.  This produces acids that attack the teeth, causing tooth decay and erosion. Usually, the mouth can neutralise these acids by producing saliva, however, constant snacking does not give the mouth chance to recover. This leaves us susceptible to acid attacks.”

Nearly one-in-three (31%) British adults have tooth decay while last year 37,000 children visited hospital to have rotten teeth removed.

Today is the start of National Smile Month, a campaign that raises awareness about the importance of having good oral health. As part of the charity campaign, the Oral Health Foundation is encouraging people to be more conscious of their snacking habits and do more to help the mouth recover from acid attacks.

One of easiest and most effective ways to protect teeth and gums in between meals is by chewing sugar free gum.  This helps the mouth to produce more saliva - the mouth's natural defence against acid.

Dr Ben Atkins, President of the Oral Health Foundation, adds: “It is important that we are mindful of the harm snacking can do for our health and take actions to prevent any potential damage. 

“By helping us make more saliva, chewing sugar-free gum can help reduce acid attacks in the mouth.

“It normally takes our saliva about an hour to replace the minerals that the enamel has lost.  Chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after eating or drinking is a great way to increase the flow of saliva and help replace the minerals more quickly.”

During National Smile Month, the Oral Health Foundation and its partners will be supporting the UK to achieve a healthier smile.

The charity will be joined by some of the UK’s most well-known household brands, including Listerine, Invisalign, Corsodyl, Pronamel, Oral-B, Philips and the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme.

Information and resources about improving your oral health are available to download from the National Smile Month website at www.smilemonth.org.

To raise awareness about the importance of having good oral health, the charity is also running lots of events and activities throughout the month, including The Great Big Brushathon on 3 June.