How Food Poverty Affects Our Oral Health

Both children and adults are likely to have poor teeth and gum health if healthy food supply is short

Sugary sweetsThe Marcus Rashford campaign has, once again, brought food poverty into the headlines. The papers will be covering the political aspects of this and we have no wish to comment on that here.

It does however, give us a good opportunity though to look at how poverty, and the accompanying poor diet, can have a major impact on our teeth and gums. Also how it can affect children especially and potentially harm their future prospects.

Although modern dental treatments such as those available at the Clock Tower Dental Clinic Epsom can do wonders to restore damaged or poor quality teeth, the basics of good oral care lie in how we clean them, but also what we eat.

Alleviating hunger

If we don’t eat, we will eventually feel hungry; we have all experienced that. For most of us, this isn’t a major problem and we just raid the fridge or cupboard for a snack to keep us going until mealtime. If we don’t have the financial resources to keep our cupboard stocked though, it means that we will go hungry, probably for several hours until the next meal time. Nobody wants to see their children going hungry, and it is distressing when they cry due to this. Because of this, most parents in this situation will look at ways of avoiding this happening. Unfortunately, this often means buying foods that provide instant gratification and fill the stomach without necessarily providing the correct levels of nutrition.

There are two problems that this can lead to. Firstly, healthy teeth and gums require certain vitamins and minerals to remain so. Key nutrients for healthy teeth and gums include calcium and vitamin D and these are widely available in a healthy diet, along with some sunshine to provide the vitamin D. So it is quite possible that anyone stuck indoors and who struggles to feed the family may well be lacking in these vital nutrients.

The other problem of course is sugar. Many foods that leave an immediate sense of satisfaction, and especially for a hungry child, contain high levels of sugar.  This does provide energy which helps to keep us warm amongst other functions, but it is, as we know, very harmful for our teeth. Understandably, a parent’s priority is to prevent hunger and the risk to teeth may be a way down the list, but a poor diet is likely to lead to tooth decay and probably toothache as well.

A future with poor teeth

Ultimately, preventing a new generation of children growing up with poor oral health due to food poverty is the responsibility of parents and governments. Unfortunately though, a lot of damage can already have happened by the time these children reach adulthood. Aside from having poor quality teeth which may look less than attractive, poor oral health can have a major impact on a young adult and may even restrict opportunities in life.

Confidence plays a big part in what we do and what we don’t do. It might sound relatively trivial to some, but a poor smile can play a major part in this. Think of your own reaction when someone smiles at you. You might welcome the smile if they have nice teeth but maybe less so if you are greeted with a set of uneven and discoloured (and possibly missing) teeth.

On a day-to-day basis this may not matter too much, but imagine if you were interviewing someone for a job and two people had similar qualifications. Where one had a nice smile and the other one didn’t, tests suggest that there is an inclination to choose the one with a nice smile. In fact, those with very poor teeth may avoid smiling altogether where they can, so that people don’t see their teeth. In extreme circumstances they may even try to avoid people as much as possible, simply because they are so worried about their smile.

Socialising can be more difficult if you have poor quality teeth, even if you aren’t overly concerned about the way that they look. If you have weak teeth and lack confidence in their ability to chew certain foods, you may find yourself turning down dinner invitations. So even if you have gone on to become successful in life more generally, those early years of food poverty can have an ongoing impact.

What can be done?

There are many political arguments to be made but that’s not something for our blog directly. To those struggling to feed their families, we have every sympathy but do encourage you to try to eat as healthily as you can to help your children grow up with healthy teeth. If you have poor teeth as an adult, it is not too late to correct this. Procedures such as dental implants, restorations and orthodontics (braces) mean that our Epsom dentists can help to provide you with teeth that are not only attractive but strong enough for daily life.

If you would like to see a dentist at the Clock Tower Dental Clinic, please call us today on 01372 720136.