The glorious glut: why August is the month for eating well

August is upon us, and whether you’re shopping at our local farmer’s market, tending to your veg patch or picking your way along the hedgerows, you’ll know this is the month of the food glut. Taking advantage of the bounty of produce on our doorstep means we can save ourselves a few trips to the supermarket, cook for a crowd, and simply enjoy eating well. And your smile will thank you, too! Fresh fruits and vegetables are good news for teeth and gums – so we’ve gathered a selection of suggestions for getting through the glut.

Fruit and berries
For the health of your teeth and gums, August’s ripe blackberries and tree fruits are best eaten fresh – you won’t find a recipe for plum jam here! But with barbecue season still in full swing (even if under a wet gazebo), you can use the glut of fruits to your advantage and still stay healthy. Try swapping those tempting fizzy drinks for a cool fruit infusion – simply steep your fruit in water with some fresh herbs or spices for 2-4 hours. Interesting combos could include pear mixed with a vanilla pod, a cinnamon stick and some fresh sliced ginger; or blackberries with mint or rosemary. Steer clear of citrus infusions, though – they’ll be much higher in enamel-damaging acid.

Easy-to-grow courgettes make for excellent side dishes and substantial salads. Invest in a mandolin so you can slice your courgettes thinly and evenly, and either eat them raw (“carpaccio”) in a minty salad, or chargrilled. Go Greek by incorporating feta or natural yoghurt; Asian-style, with sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds; or try a classic prawn linguine, swapping some (or all) of the pasta with courgette shavings or spirals. Prefer your courgettes cooked? Try this simple tortilla - a perfect paring of summer flavours.

Runner beans
Banish memories of soggy, stringy runners accompanying your meat-and-two-veg; prepared properly, runner beans can be modern and moreish. Avoid the stringy-ness with a runner-bean slicer – a cheap piece of kit that won’t take up space in your kitchen drawer. To get the best out of your runners, toss them with strong flavours and textures – chorizo (in a tomatoey stew), garlicky breadcrumbs, or a classic mustard or shallot butter dressing. Alternatively, try this fresh recipe, which includes calcium-rich cheese and crunchy nuts.

Peppers and aubergines
Farmer’s markets are groaning under the weight of sun-ripened veg in August, so bag yourself a bargain this month. Roasted peppers and aubergines are lovely year-round, but in August they are best chargrilled – so make them the focus of a fantastic barbecue dish, stick them under your oven grill, or use a griddle pan. We love Jamie Oliver’s take, which brings teeth-friendly cheese, fresh herbs and pulses into play.

Google ‘tomato recipes’ and you get around 370 million results – but in August, pure and simple should be your mantra; the flavour alone is enough. Start with a classic tomato salad – don’t let them anywhere near a fridge; simply season, drizzle with good olive oil and sprinkle with fresh basil or oregano. Jazz it up with olives, capers and cheese. For a serious glut, reduce the volume of your tomatoes by slow-baking them in the oven until they reach the texture you want – ‘sun-blush’ or ‘sun-dried’; jar them in oil for future use, or gifts.

Don’t forget, if you need help choosing the right foods to keep your smile healthy, book in with the hygienist at Rhiwbina Dental, who is qualified to offer nutritional advice. Happy eating this August!

A record-breaking Village Festival – again!

We’re delighted to report that we had another winning year at the Rhiwbina Village Festival! While our ‘sponge the dentist’ attraction proved unusually popular, our amazing Rhiwbina Raffle kept the money coming in. Lucky winners were rewarded with a host of fantastic prizes, and we raised a fantastic £1,423.40 for FaceUp Cymru – beating last year’s total!

Why we support FaceUp Cymru
As dentists, we’re hyper-aware of the risks and dangers of mouth cancer. As one of the more aggressive cancers, it has a lower survival rate than other cancers, and because it affects the mouth, it can have a devastating long-term impact on speech, eating and facial features. FaceUp Cymru supports patients who are going through head and neck cancer, which can include mouth cancer, helping them to come to terms with their diagnosis and manage their treatment. It’s a charity close to Rhiwbina Dental’s heart, because our founder, John Hawkins, is a survivor of mouth cancer. With help from FaceUp Cymru, sufferers’ lives can be made more comfortable through a number of methods; this might include providing specialist equipment, or funding a dedicated physiotherapist, social worker or clinical nurse who specialises in wound care. The charity also provides counselling and patient self-help groups to help with confidence building, coping strategies, target setting and coping with disfigurement.

Why mouth cancer matters
Mouth cancer, or oral cancer, is actually on the rise in the UK, and it’s important that more is done to raise awareness about its risks. Mouth cancer is primarily a lifestyle-related disease, with risk factors that include smoking, vaping, drinking spirits, and the HPV virus. Unlike other cancers, it affects a high proportion of young people, its survival rate is low (only 45-50% of people diagnosed will live), and treatment can involve years of surgery and facial reconstruction. At Rhiwbina Dental, we routinely screen for signs of mouth cancer, and encourage you to do so at home every month. If you have any of the obvious symptoms – mouth ulcers that won’t heal, red or white lesions, swelling – come and see us straight away so we can put your mind at rest.

If you are interested in the work of FaceUp Cymru, visit the website - and don’t forget to schedule your next check-up here at Rhiwbina Dental too!

9-15 July is TOFS awareness week! Find out about TOFS and why we’re supporting the work of the charity here at Rhiwbina Dental.

TOF stands for trachea-oesophageal fistula – which is when there is an abnormal connection between the trachea (the breathing tube that connects to our lungs) and the oesophagus (the tube used for swallowing, connecting with the stomach). Along with oesophageal atresia (OA – a condition in which the oesophagus does not develop fully), TOF/OA prevents the ability to swallow.

TOF/OA is a condition that usually becomes apparent at birth – and with increasing awareness, there is a good prognosis for many children born with TOF/OA. However, many adults live with TOF/OA and dental health is one of the many challenges they face. The charity TOFS works to raise awareness and our dentist, Alison Lewis, recently contributed to the TOFS magazine with advice about dental health. Check out her article below – and visit the TOFS website for more information.

Tooth wear in Adult TOFs by Dentist Alison Lewis

This article aims to give an overview of tooth wear, a common condition affecting many Adult TOFs.

What is tooth wear?

Tooth wear is a term used to describe the progressive loss of a tooth’s surface due to actions other than those that cause tooth decay or dental trauma. It is becoming more widespread, as people keep their teeth longer, and because of modern dietary habits. There are three main types: erosion; abrasion; and attrition. Although one type can exacerbate the other, it is erosion, which generally affects TOFs.

How are TOFs affected?

Adult TOFs are at high risk of tooth wear due to the gastro-oesophageal reflux that often goes hand in hand with the TOF condition. Acid from the reflux causes the surface of the tooth enamel to ‘dissolve’. When this happens repeatedly, the damage starts to become noticeable. It can range from a mild 'glassiness’ of the enamel surface to a full-blown stripping-off the enamel down to the dentine, which can then be affected in the same way. It classically affects the back of the upper front teeth (the palatal aspect), as this is the surface that the reflux acid contacts first.

If left unchecked tooth wear can lead to unsightly teeth, chipping and sensitivity. In severe cases, it can result in death of the nerve within the tooth, with the possibility of associated infection.

What you can do to help reduce the likelihood of tooth wear

  • Try to keep reflux under control, with medication if necessary. Your GP will be able to prescribe something appropriate.
  • Avoid foods that makes your reflux worse.
  • Reduce intake of fizzy drinks and fruit juices. Drink plenty of water (but not sparkling!). If you do drink something acidic, use a straw.
  • Avoid tooth brushing for 20 to 30 minutes after consuming acidic food or drink. This gives the saliva time to 'lock down’ the top layer of enamel that has been softened by the acid. Brushing too soon can wash this top layer down the plughole, thus speeding up the effects of the acid erosion.
  • Use a fluoride mouthwash. This will help strengthen susceptible enamel.
  • Use a desensitising toothpaste, eg Sensodyne Repair and Protect, or ProEnamel. This will help reduce any sensitivity.
  • Avoid scrubbing with your toothbrush. Studies have shown electric toothbrushes to be more effective at removing plaque, and can be less damaging if used correctly.
  • Chewing sugar free gum helps stimulate saliva flow – important for washing away and buffering any food acids.

Treatment available if tooth wear is present

The first priority is to address the causes of tooth wear as above. If tooth wear is already present, there is a range of treatments that can help. Sometimes management of sensitivity and addressing dietary habits are all that is needed.

If tooth wear is more severe, it may be possible to rebuild the lost tooth tissue with composite. This is a tooth-coloured filling material, which is bonded to the teeth. It doesn’t involve any drilling or anaesthetic and is thus a 'tooth-friendly’ treatment, not involving the removal of any more precious tooth tissue.

Another option is porcelain crowns. This is a more complicated and expensive treatment. Damage from tooth erosion is usually widespread, and treatment can involve several, if not all of the teeth. This needs to be done with much planning and care by someone with a lot of experience. Many dentists are happy to do this in general practice, though others prefer to refer to a specialist. Certain cases may be available for NHS treatment, but this would need individual assessment. NHS Direct or your Local Health Board may be able to help you find an NHS dentist.

If you live near a Dental Teaching Hospital, it might be possible to get specific treatment there, if your general practice cannot provide it.

There is a lot of information about reflux, diet and teeth online. Being well informed, helps you to make healthy choices that will minimise any damage that TOF-related gastro-oesophageal reflux can cause.

ref: British Health Foundation Ireland

Alison N Lewis BDS DPDS

Alison is a General Dental Practitioner working in a specialist practice in Cardiff.

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