Nutrition & oral health
The single most important cause of dental caries is the frequency with which sugar-containing foods and drinks are consumed. The nutritional advice offered in relation to oral health should be based on the reduction of between-meal snacking of sugary foods and drinks. The 1995 Food and Nutrition Policy guidelines for Ireland recommend that frequent consumption throughout the day of foods containing sugar should be avoided, especially by children. These guidelines further recommend that while a high energy intake is required for growth by adolescents (and this increases meal frequency), this should not be associated with frequent consumption of foods/drinks high in sugar throughout the day. The WHO recommendation is that the intake of "free sugars" - this term does not include sugars naturally present in whole fruits, vegetables and milk - should be less than 10% of total energy intake (which equates to<15-20 kg/person/year) and that frequency of intake be limited to four times or less a day.
- Frequent consumption of sugar-containing foods and drinks is the most important cause of tooth decay.
- Twenty-three percent of 8-year-olds and 40% of 15-year-olds consume sweet snacks or drinks between normal meals three or more times a day10; half (48%) of all adults snack between meals, most commonly on biscuits and cakes.
- More than 8 out of 10 adults (86%) consume at least three servings a day of foods high in fats and sugar. The Food Pyramid recommends that these foods are best avoided and limited to "no more than 1 serving a day maximum and ideally not everyday."
- Poor nutrition is a "shared common risk factor" for cardiovascular diseases, cancer, obesity and oral diseases.
- A healthy diet for oral health should be promoted as part of general nutrition advice.
The 2002 National Oral Health Survey reported that 23% of 8-year-olds and 40% of 15-year-olds consume sweet snacks or drinks between normal meals three or more times a day.10 The 2007 Lifestyle and Nutrition Survey (SLÁN) also reported that half (48%) of all adults snack between meals, most commonly on biscuits and cakes.