Section 4: The role of diet in oral health

Good oral hygiene aims to reduce the amount of plaque bacteria around teeth that play a part in causing tooth decay. Another important factor in this is the presence of sugar sourced from the diet.

The combination of factors that contribute to dental decay

circlesHaving a good diet contributes towards a healthy lifestyle. The government is working to stem increases in levels of overweight and obesity in the population and to protect people from developing chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Overall the diet should be rich in fruit and vegetables, bread, other cereals and potatoes. Moderate amounts of fish, eggs, beans, milk and dairy foods are to be included, along with a small amount of foods (and drinks) containing fat or sugar. A diet that includes a wide range of different foods and nutrient sources is more likely to be balanced. This ‘balance’ is illustrated in the Balance of Good Health Plate. The ‘5 A DAY’ guidance also encourages sourcing the full range of vitamins and minerals the body needs to function well from a wide range of foods.

The Balance of Good Health Plate

Recent government advice has identified that there needs to be a halving of the amount of energy that comes from sugars in our diet. This includes sugars added in food manufacture, by caterers, in home cooking, or by the consumer at the table. The sugars that need to be reduced include ones naturally found in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juice. This will help to protect our overall health including our oral health.


food-shoppingPublic Health England (PHE) says that ‘sugary drinks have no place in a child’s daily diet, but account for almost a third of their daily sugar intake’. Parents are encouraged to establish lifelong healthy eating habits for their children by replacing sugary drinks with sugar free and no added sugar drinks, lower fat milks or water. As part of 5 A DAY, the updated guidance is to limit fruit juice or smoothie consumption to one 150ml serving a day, taken as part of a meal. This will help protect teeth from its acid content.

Read manufacturers’ product labels to see how much sugar foods contain. Choose ‘tooth- friendly’ foods for snacks, and if sugar is consumed, limit this to during meal times.

Last updated: September 11, 2015

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