Supporting A Healthy Smile

Diet & Weight Loss

A healthy smile is something most people desire and is something that some pay a lot of money for… but when it comes to maintaining what we have, we can often forget the impact of our eating behaviours.


Eating guidelines for our mental, physical and emotional well-being can sometime contradict dental advice, e.g. the age old saying ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’. Yes, but diets with ‘excessive consumption’ of acidic or sugary foods (or beverages) may produce dental erosion; paired with already softened dental enamel and the chomping action of raw, abrasive or fibrous foods, might cause further damage to our teeth, a.k.a. dental attrition.


Fruits, fruit juices, fruit ‘drinks’, ‘smoothies’ or fruit-based herbal teas are not the only contenders to produce such an effect; wines, sugary drinks (i.e. squashes), fizzy drinks, ‘alco-pops’, sweets, vinegar or vinaigrette’s, or even tomato-based sauces can all play their role as a catalyst to erosion and/or dental caries due to their high acidity and/or sugary nature.  Any food or drink with a pH value below 7 is considered acidic and anything below 5.3 can potentially cause ‘acid wear’ to our teeth.


I personally do not have an uncontrollable desire to consume fizzy drinks or sweets, but I do enjoy my homemade vinaigrette’s, whole fruits and some foods in brine. As a former dental nurse with over ten years of dental experience, I am more than aware of the pitfalls of completely neglecting your dental health, e.g. from a bad diet, stress-related factors or even a cleaning/hygiene point of view and I would fully recommend everyone to regularly visit a dentist for regular check-ups and hygienist treatments.

As a nutritionist, I am going to help you get the balance right with some comprehensive advice about foods and drinks, as well as some behaviours to avoid, so you can still enjoy your meals and drinks without worrying about damaging your teeth.


3 Foods & Dinks To Limit And/Or Avoid

Consuming these types of ‘enamel-eroding foods and/or drinks’ is a daily part of most people’s lives, but there are things we can do to help support our teeth and ultimately have a healthier diet too.

Consuming sticky dried fruits, hard candies and even crisps in between meals can be a dentist’s (and nutritionist’s) worse nightmare; these types of foods are likely to stick deep into the fissures of our teeth. Not only is consuming these unhealthy snacks a likely contributor to weight gain and chronic health problems, it can enable acid attacks on our teeth and cause dental decay. If you cannot avoid it, then try rinsing your mouth with water or chew sugar-free gum afterwards; this can help stimulate the secretion of saliva which helps neutralize acid attacks.


If you are a fan of drinking ‘sports drinks’, high-sugar energy drinks, fizzy carbonated drinks, fruit juices/drinks or ‘smoothies’, I hope it’s in moderation?! Type 2 diabetes, obesity, along with potential tooth decay and erosion is something you can look forward to otherwise.

Once more, if you are consuming these types of drinks, try to avoid them in between meals, don’t ‘swish’ them around in your mouth and if possible, try and drink them through a straw to reduce the quantity and frequency of the acid coming into contact with your teeth; I know this doesn’t sound very ‘manly or socially acceptable’, but there you have it! Also, diluting these drinks with water will allow you to cut down on the amount of sugar and acid you’ll be consuming.


3 Dental Practices To Think Twice About

1. D.I.Y Home Whitening (Or Using Unregulated Providers For Whiter Teeth!)

Photo by: Dr. Gary Lam DDS FLickrOur diets contain so many ‘stain-causing’ foods and beverages, as well as anyone that smokes will suffer from tooth discolouration. Therefore it can be all the more tempting to approach a cheap ‘salon’ or purchase a D.I.Y home whitening kit promising ‘pearly whites’.

Unfortunately, tooth whitening through bleaching agents is not a permanent procedure and unless we consume a bland/white diet (which is unlikely!), over time we will accumulate this staining once again.


If you do decide to have a tooth whitening experience, make sure it’s performed by a dentist or another regulated dental professional. It is illegal for someone that is not a qualified dental professional to perform this procedure (make sure to check their GDC registration if you are unsure).

This is one of the reasons why tooth whitening costs as much as it does. Its a cosmetic procedure deemed non-essential by the NHS and private whitening fees start at about £300… but you get what you pay for.


Photo by: Carmel Commons Dental Flickr

Dental professionals (like any other healthcare professional), but not beauticians (an example of an unregulated provider), provide an in-depth assessment for your care and well-being, including suitability for any procedure. If you haven’t been to the dentist in the past year, then you may have developed an ‘underlying problem’, e.g. dental caries, dental abscesses, broken teeth, exposed roots, clenching and grinding habits that have produced cracks and existing teeth sensitivity, receding gum lines or ‘gum disease’.


It’s also not suitable for anyone under the age of 16, pregnant women and those that have ‘braces’, as well as anyone with: pre-existing fillings, crowns or any other tooth restorations; as they must be advised that these materials will not whiten with the other ‘virgin teeth’. Ultimately, your teeth without restorations will end up looking whiter than the ones with.

Bleaching concentrations are regulated and their application is precisely controlled. Unqualified individuals may end up damaging your teeth or burning your oral tissue in the process if the incorrect procedures and solutions were to be used.


Photo by: Joan(henna lion) Flickr

Furthermore, dental professionals are not going to apply ‘mystery concoctions’ over your teeth and hope for the best. This is essentially what you are doing if you try to whiten your teeth with unregulated whitening kits (i.e. off the internet) or home-made solutions of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar and/or ‘fruit mixtures with potentially badly fitted bleaching trays.

These mediums can end up damaging your dental enamel (or worse) because they can be acidic/abrasive, leaving your tooth’s dentine exposed (which is naturally yellow in colour) and leaving you to prone to tooth sensitivity.


2. Immediately Brushing After Meals

Photo by: gary Joh Flickr

I know it can be difficult with our demanding lifestyles and time constraints, but brushing our teeth after meals is a sure fire way to scrub away our lovely tooth enamel… and we only get one set of ‘permanent’ teeth and one coat of ‘enamel folks’.

Our mouths can have an acidic environment from intrinsic or extrinsic factors. If our teeth are exposed to acids, the enamel can begin to soften; if you already have dentine exposure, this tooth surface is even more vulnerable to erosion. We need to allow the natural processes of ‘remineralisation’ to occur before we grab our toothbrushes. Ideally leaving 30 to 60 minutes to allow the saliva’s pH to return to ‘tooth-friendly’ levels; this will allow the softened enamel a chance to reharden/remineralise and be more resistant against ‘tooth brushing abrasion’.


Understandably most of us do not have this luxury of ‘downtime’ before we head off to work. In this case, rinse your mouth with a fluoride mouth rinse (and if your really proactive, take your tooth brush to work with you) before you leave. Ideally, brushing your teeth before breakfast would be more beneficial because your mouth has a neutral pH. I know you might detest this because the ‘toothpaste flavour’ can alter the taste of your food, but it’s in your best interests. Brushing after meals compounds the ‘dental erosion’ problem through plaque (which produces acid when exposed to sugar) and brushing softened enamel.



3. Using A ‘Fluoride Free/Natural” Toothpaste To Regularly Brush Your Teeth

Although dentistry has been improving, a 2009 report highlighted that 39% of adults were still experiencing some sort of dental problem. Another survey published by Public Health England in 2012, showed that 27% of 5 year-olds still had some form of tooth decay. Children’s teeth are smaller and have thinner enamel; if paired with a bad diet and improper brushing, it can increase their risk of dental decay.

Although it could be a combination of things, why in the 21st century are we still having this preventable problem? It has been shown in studies and reports that fluoride aids the prevention of dental decay. So why should we take something out of the mix that has got a proven track record to help?

Fluoride is a natural mineral that hardens tooth enamel to keep our teeth strong thus preventing dental decay and/or reducing the progression of cavities. Using non-fluoride toothpastes and mouth rinses due to personal, ethical or may even religious stand points could increase your chances of developing tooth decay given the right conditions, e.g. dry mouth/ reduced salivary flow, improper tooth brushing and interdental cleaning techniques (to remove plaque/food), lack of regular dental check-ups and dental cleanings, poor diet and/or frequent exposures to sugar and/or acid foods and beverages.


A non-fluoride toothpaste does not contain anything more than naturally sourced ingredients and flavourings, e.g. xylitol, menthol, baking soda, which are not going to necessarily help you in your war against tooth decay. They need to be used in part of a good ‘oral health care plan’ (which includes going to the dentist) to maintain the integrity of your teeth and your oral health.

It’s advisable to speak to your dental professional, as everyone has individual needs and therefore he/she can enable you to make informed decisions about our dental health (tailoring oral health care plans accordingly), before making any major changes to your routines. Particularly, people who have a medical or physical condition, or those who are taking specific medications, might also consider their options first before changing their dental care.


Considering we only get one set of permanent teeth, one body and one life… our diet is definitely worth considering, don’t you think?


Recommended Reading


Article written by: Lynn Risby BSc Nutritionist
Feature image by: Clearskinacne Flickr

5 Steps To Cut Out Sugar And Why You’ll Be Happier for it!

Diet & Weight Loss

Following on from my previous article, I am now going to offer some advice on how to reduce your sugar intake…without being the bearer of bad news! You may be currently worried about your health, or have been influenced by the media or even your best friend, but there have been some logical points made as to why we should monitor and reduce our sugar intakes.

Here are simple and realistic ways to improve your diet and the quality of your life without relying on a ‘sugar crutch’.


5 Small Steps To Reduce Your Sugar Intake:


1. Analyse Your Cravings & Retrain Your Taste Buds
Photo By: Angela Jin Flickr

Photo By: Angela Jin Flickr

Analyse and reflect on your cravings before you reach for your next sugary fix.

As a previous ‘Condiment Queen’ myself, I had to reflect on my usage; I was quite a fussy eater as a child and they made foods more pleasant.

Adjust your sugar intake over time and your palate will adjust with you; as a child I loved triple chocolate everything, now I prefer savoury foods.




2. Find Fruit & Vegetable Substitutions
Photo By: Lucky Lebepe Flickr

Photo By: Lucky Lebepe Flickr

Eating fresh produce will help fight sugar cravings through its natural sweetness and high fibre contents.  High fibre= fuller for longer and no sugar crashes.

Try naturally sweet vegetables, e.g.  carrots, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, squash and sugar peas. Instead of jam try whole or pureed berries on porridge or multi-seeded toast. Add whole fruit to plain yoghurt. Eat a multigrain wrap with grapes and peanut butter or sliced apple with almond butter. Be inventive and substitute sugar in baking with, e.g. pureed sweet potato, squash, carrot, apple or ripe bananas instead.

Take it easy on the dried or tinned fruit in syrups, as these have higher sugar contents; eat whole fruits instead of fruit smoothies/ juices as they offer more fibre and less sugar.




3. Don’t Use Sweeteners?
Photo by: Gianna Ferretti Flickr

Photo by: Gianna Ferretti Flickr

‘Natural sweeteners’ like honey and other unrefined sugars (i.e. coconut sugar) are slightly higher in nutrients but it is still sugar. Sweeteners, depending on the variety, can be hundreds or thousands’ of times sweeter than actual sugar; both sweeteners and natural sugars and can still enable your sweet tooth.

Information regarding artificial sweeteners is inconsistent. The EFSA has deemed them safe but studies still explore their possible side-effects.

Some studies suggest using artificial sweeteners could leave you craving more sugar, making it harder to cut it out, lose weight and fight chronic disease. While others suggest they might cause cancer or type 2 diabetes …but the jury is still out!

Don’t fall into media promotion, e.g. ‘Coca Cola Life’; there’s nothing natural about drinking chemicals sweetened by plants!


Photo by: FoodBev Photos Flickr

Photo by: FoodBev Photos Flickr




4. Read Food Labels
Photo By: Health Gauge Flickr

Photo By: Health Gauge Flickr

Refer to my previous sugar article for the ‘56 names of sugar’ when you go shopping; check for high and hidden sugar contents.

Check foods and beverages, e.g. some herbal teas have sugar.

Refer to the FSA guidance regarding healthy dietary sugar intakes.






5. Eat Balanced Meals & Exercise
Photo By: Steffen Egly Flickr

Photo By: Steffen Egly Flickr

Eat lean protein, complex carbohydrates and vegetables. Protein doesn’t have any effect on your blood sugar levels, therefore you will not get a ‘sugar rush and crash’, unlike refined carbohydrates and sugars.

Regular exercise will make you feel healthier and reduce sugary cravings. As mentioned in my previous article Diet and exercise, exercising is beneficial for both your physical and mental health.




Why You’ll Be Happier Weaning Yourself Off The ‘Sugar Train’!


Physical Motives

Having a high sugar intake can be a prerequisite for unpleasant health conditions. Check out some possible consequences.



Mental Motives
  • To control your moods and concentration levels

To operate at your best, your blood sugar levels should not be too low or too high. Consuming regular and ‘healthy sugar sources’ will enable sustained concentration and moods; mental focus and activity use a lot of energy.

  • To Increase your energy levels

A healthy diet will allow you to enjoy ‘active’ activities, as your waistlines decrease and mental and physical power increases.

  • To gain back control

Any sort of change requires motivation and willpower. Take pride in the fact you’re making healthier choices and reaping the benefits of a healthier lifestyle!



I know that people generally like to hear good news about their bad habits, but I’m afraid that’s not going to happen today.

Hopefully I have empowered you to try to cut down or even eliminate sugar from your diet over the next week or month, it can’t hurt?


Article written by: Lynn Risby BSc Nutritionist
Feature image by: Libby Babet Yahoo!7 Flickr

Is Sugar Souring Our Lives?

Diet & Weight Loss

Are you currently reading this article and eating a sneaky bit of chocolate at your desk? It must be that inescapable afternoon slump or perhaps it’s your annoying ‘sweet tooth’ wreaking havoc again? Let’s not dismiss the obvious- you might have an underlying ‘sugar addiction’.


This is not sugar discrimination, with me suggesting you empty the entire contents of your kitchen to rid yourself of sugar, nor am I not getting paid to promote fruit and vegetables (Farmers don’t have the budget!)

The biological fact is we all need sugar, just not the stuff in the little sachets. Every time you eat carbohydrates they’re broken down by your body into glucose molecules. Our body takes glucose from our bloodstream and moves it into our body’s cells for energy via the hormone insulin. Glucose is the number one fuel used to power our brain and our bodies. Unlike our liver, our brain neurons cannot store an energy source and requires a regular and healthy source of it from our diet. …But let’s be honest, cake and chocolate have never been healthy (although they might be regular). We have all probably consumed too much sugar at one point in time, causing our blood sugar levels to spike and then crash; leaving us tired and looking for our next ‘sugar fix’.


It can be hard to undo habitual behaviours though, especially ones learnt from a very young age; allowing your brain to see sugar as a reward stimulates this on-going ‘sugar wars’. You might say that you’re not addicted to sugar… but let’s look at and consider some possible signs.

Sugar Addiction: Signs & Symptoms:
  • Constantly craving sugary things, even when you’re not hungry?
  • A cycle of feeling low in mood/ tired and then perked up by a sugary snack?
  • Regular ‘binges’ on sweet things? Or do have a constant supply in your cupboards?
  • Do you regularly eat white breads, crackers, pasta, long grain rice, sugary cereals or cereal bars?
  • Maybe you have a specific health problem related to eating sugar, but you keep eating it anyways?
  • How many days can you go without sugar? Only a day? Be honest…
Photo by: Daireth Winehouse Flickr

Photo by: Daireth Winehouse Flickr

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this could be wake-up call to the way you view or select your next meal, at least in regards to sugar.  If not, maybe the media can persuade you about the pitfalls of sugar.


Some current articles from this year that you might find worth reading include:


Additionally a U.S. programme ‘FED UP’ which started out as a film is gaining increased interest; it tackles the problems of the food industry and proactively gets people think about reducing their sugar intakes, highlighting the ‘56 names of sugar’ that lurk in our foods and drinks!

Photo courtesy of: the FED UP film & challenge

Photo courtesy of: the FED UP film & challenge


It’s obvious that the sugar industry isn’t making it easy for us, with ample ways of enabling our love affair with sugar. Not only is it widely and readily available, they insist on giving us ‘options’, yes options, ( i.e.) ten flavours or new and improved flavours of every product.

But let’s face it, sugar doesn’t improve our lives or give us a reason to live- it just makes us fat, tired, highly-strung and perhaps sour-faced from the spiralling reality that it can’t sustain our happiness long term!

So why do we do it? We all know the horrible cliché, ‘a moment on the lips and a lifetime on the hips’, but this topic resonates deeper for us than those tongue in cheek rationalisations of why we should be monitoring our sugar intake.


Sugar is sometimes compared to as a ‘drug’; it’s not surprising as a great deal of us share physical, emotional and mental dependencies on it.

Photo by: Sammy face :) Flickr

Photo by: Sammy face 🙂 Flickr


Could this be make or break? What are we going to do to make realistic changes to turn this situation around? I’ll be filling you in on’ 5 simple steps to cut sugar out of your Diet and why you’ll be happier for it’ in an upcoming article. So watch this space!

Please leave your thoughts in the comment box below if you have recently made positive dietary changes in fighting your sugar war or have any thoughts on this topic.


Article written by: Lynn Risby BSc Nutritionist
Feature image by: Denis Vrublevski on Flickr