Lucy Stock is a columnist for The Irish News
Nobody has ever come into my dental practice wanting their teeth to be in a worse condition and it goes without saying that the better we look after our teeth in childhood, the better our long term mouth health, comfort and appearance will be. Northern Ireland has the worst oral health in the UK. On average a five year old has over 2.5 teeth affected by decay which leads to pain and suffering. It’s clear that parents want the best for their children and there are straightforward things that parents can do to give their child the best teeth possible. Many families have particular beliefs about many things, including what they eat and drink. Take fizzy drinks, for example, people often believe that they give children an energy boost which keeps them going or diet drinks are healthy as they are “sugar free”. Sometimes it’s helpful to reflect on these kinds of beliefs and see if they really are appropriate for children nowadays.
In one recent study, published in the journal Human Psychopharmacology, a group of healthy adults took 90-minute mental tests after eating a small lunch on various days. On some days, about an hour after lunch, they drank a soft drink that had 42 grams of sugar and about 30 to 40 milligrams of caffeine. On other days, they drank a similarly flavoured drink with no sugar or caffeine. With the high sugar drink, the subjects’ mental test scores were lower and they had more delays in reaction time and lapses in attention. After a 15-minute rush of energy, they became tired and less alert. So contrary to what seems logical, fizzy drinks don’t give children the desired energy boost. Diet drinks are also harmful to teeth as they contain acids that dissolve teeth.
It’s not always the best thing to keep doing what we have always done however changing our eating and drinking habits takes resolve. It’s hard to say no to children but parents need to take control and stand firm and not be persuaded by the pleas. Improved health, appearance, comfort and self-esteem can be motivating factors when considering reducing the fizzy drinks that our children get. It can be an idea to agree one day a week when the kids are allowed fizzy drinks. Reducing the frequency reduces tooth decay.
National Smile Month, the UK’s largest oral health campaign, is back! This year the organisers, the British Dental Health Foundation, are inviting teachers to join in with their colleagues from other schools and take part in National Smile Month which runs between 19th May and 19th June. Year on year with an increasing number of schools participating, more children are taking advantage of the lifelong benefits of good dental health. The World Health Organization says that worldwide, 60–90% of school children and nearly 100% of adults have dental cavities which often lead to pain and discomfort. Oral health is essential to general health and quality of life. It is a state of being free from mouth and facial pain, oral and throat cancer, oral infection and sores, gum disease, tooth decay, tooth loss, and other diseases and disorders that limit an individual’s capacity in biting, chewing, smiling, speaking, and emotional wellbeing.
Statistics show not enough children give consideration to their oral health, and that’s where National Smile Month comes in. Schools have an important role to play in educating young people about healthy lifestyles, including their oral care. Introducing oral health into the school curriculum, especially in primary school, can make a big difference. Research shows that people who learn good habits as children are far more likely to carry them into adulthood. A dedicated website for helping to improve oral health in schools called Dental Buddy hosts a series of educational resources, including activity sheets, lesson plans and interactive presentations. All of which are freely downloadable from the site, to take into the classroom. Resources are available to educate children on the basic messages all the way up to some of the more detailed ways in which they can improve their oral health.
Pupils can get involved with tooth brushing demonstrations, drawing competitions, a quiz, or even writing their own smiley poems. Smiley masks are available to use in ‘Smileathons’. Pupils can take pictures using them and there are these three key messages on the back of the Smileys too:
We often take being able to taste our food for granted but when things go wrong and our ability to taste normally changes, it can be demoralizing. Taste can be affected in many ways, from total loss of taste to alterations in taste. One common complaint of patients is that they have a metallic taste in their mouths. Dysgeusia is the medical term for a distorted ability to taste. So what triggers the change?
Medications are a leading cause of a metallic taste in the mouth. The types of drugs that can cause this side effect include antibiotics, smoking cessation medication like nicotine patches and drugs that treat a wide range of conditions including heart and blood pressure problems; cancer; arthritis; diabetes and osteoporosis– among others. So unfortunately, the older we get the more likely it is that we will experience a change in our taste as we are more likely to be taking multiple medications.
Neglecting our mouth health can put us on a rocky road to problems. Gum infections, tooth decay and abscesses can produce a bad taste in your mouth, which may be experienced as a metallic taste. Taste and smell go hand in hand so if your sense of smell goes then your ability to taste properly can change likewise. So sinus infections and allergies can also sometimes lead to a metallic taste. In addition there could be an underlying disease that is eliciting the difference in taste like an inflammatory disease or diseases that affect your nerves. The hormone fluctuations that accompany pregnancy are believed to cause the metallic taste reported by some women, especially during the first trimester.
Due to the variety of causes of dysgeusia, there are many possible treatments that are effective in alleviating or stopping the symptoms. If nothing seems to help, or it is appearing to get worse, it’s best to talk to your doctor to rule out any underlying conditions.
Some ways that may improve taste are: