New research suggests that people who eat at night–time are at a higher risk of tooth loss than those who do not.
The survey, which examined the oral health records of 2,217 Danes, was conducted by researchers at the University of Copenhagen.
173 (eight percent) of those who participated were classed as nocturnal eaters. This meant they consumed a quarter or more of their daily calories after their evening meal, or would wake up for a starlit snack at least two nights a week.
After studying the participants for a period of six years, the researchers discovered the night–time nibblers lost more teeth than those who did not munch at midnight.
Other factors were taken into consideration to control the research. Causes such as diabetes diagnosis, smoking status, binge eating habits, age, education, carbohydrate intake and body mass were all considered. Despite these variants, the research still showed that nocturnal eating is significantly harmful to the teeth.
Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter said: “The more people who are aware of the problems nocturnal eating can cause the better. Hopefully this new research will encourage people to alter their eating habits. Not eating at night, is something quite simple and easy and will massively improve people’s oral health.”
Researchers from the study emphasises that midnight munching is worse for teeth as there is less saliva in the mouth at night. With less saliva acid formed by the bacteria in plaque coming into contact with sugar containing foods stays in the mouth for a longer period, and therefore causes more damage. The study found participants were not impacted by what type of snack they ate.
The study also suggests that dentists should be aware of the risks of late night food binges, and act accordingly. Patients should be made aware of the risks, and there should be increased screening.
The Foundation emphasises the importance of good oral health–care, and highlights that following a few key messages can massively improve the condition of the teeth. Brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day is vital, especially before bedtime.
Other measures which can minimise damage to teeth include cutting down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks, and drinking only water for the last hour before you brush your teeth at night.
Regular visits to the dentist will also ensure that any problems are caught early and are simpler and less expensive to treat.
For more information please contact the Foundation’s press office at [email protected] or (on) 01788 539 799.
The study was published in Eating Behaviours journal, and was reviewed by BBC News Online.
The British Dental Health Foundation is the UK’s leading oral health charity, with a 30–year track record of providing public information and influencing government policy. It maintains a free consumer advice service, an impartial and objective product accreditation scheme, publishes and distributes a wide range of literature for the profession and consumers, and runs National Smile Month each May, to promote greater awareness of the benefits of better oral health.
The Dental Helpline, which offers free impartial advice to consumers, can be contacted on 0845 063 1188 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Alternatively, they can be contacted by email on [email protected]
A series of free ‘Tell Me About…’ leaflets covering topics such as caring for my teeth, finding a dentist and diet are also available.
The Foundation’s website can be found at www.dentalhealth.org