A Salty Subject – Howard Thomas

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  Posted by: Dental Design      6th June 2018

When it comes to food, it goes without saying that sugar is enemy number one for the dental profession. It is, after all, one of the leading causes of dental caries around the globe,[i]and a contributing factor in the high number of tooth decay related hospitalisations in children. If research is anything to go by, however, it’s not the only white grainy ingredient to watch out for, as salt – or more importantly the sodium that is found within salt – can also be detrimental to oral health.


Of course, in some cases salt has been shown to have positive effects on oral health, as the mineral’s natural antimicrobial properties can help with the short-term relief of oral pain and with rebalancing patients’ oral pH levels. But when salt is ingested, particularly in large quantities that exceed the recommended daily salt intake, it can be a different story.


One of the biggest problems that needs to be taken into consideration with patients with a salt-rich diet, is the impact sodium can have on calcium. Indeed, according to research conducted by medical researchers at the University of Alberta,[ii]when sodium intake becomes too high, the body’s instant reaction is to dispose of it via the urine. When this happens, it is thought that the body also gets rid of calcium at the same time, due to both sodium and calcium likely being regulated by the same molecule. But what has this got to do with dentistry, you ask?


Well, it is often reported that there is a link between low calcium and bone loss,[iii]and we know from dental studies that there is a possible correlation between osteoporosis and oral bone loss[iv]. If then, patients were to experience considerable calcium loss due to sodium intake, there could be an increased risk of tooth loss.


The other issue is that salt raises blood pressure leading to hypertension,[v]and as there is research that suggests gingival and periodontal disease is associated with hypertension,[vi]patients with a sodium-rich diet could be at higher risk of oral manifestations.


Currently, it is thought that the average intake of salt per day in the UK is 8.1g,[vii]which is 2.1g above the recommended allowance for adults. This is extremely disconcerting given the research available. Part of the problem, of course, isn’t just a lack of understanding of the dangers of sodium, but the high salt content in popular foods. In a recent report published by Action on Salt that looked at the amounts of salt in Chinese food,[viii]it was found that 58% of takeaway dishes contained over half of an adult’s recommended daily intake in one portion, and 43% of ready meals from supermarkets contained over 1.8g per portion. The saltiest takeaway main and side combination, it was revealed in the study, was a beef in black bean sauce and vegetable noodles from a restaurant in London’s Chinatown, which contained a staggering 11.50g of salt. That’s 5.5g above what should be consumed on a daily basis.


Other foods with high salt contents include anchovies, bacon, cheese, corn and potato snacks, ham, noodle snack pots, pickles, cured meats such as salami, soy sauce, and stock cubes amongst others. By comparison, foods such as breakfast cereals, fresh fish, meat and poultry, fresh fruit and vegetables, pasta, rice, yoghurt and pulses are low in salt. Products such as bread, soup and pasta sauces can vary in their salt content depending on whether they have been manufactured or homemade. Where possible, homemade is the recommended option.[ix]


With all this in mind, it is clear that there is a need for a greater focus on salt intake and the risks of sodium when educating patients about the importance of a healthy, balanced diet. Sugar might be the main culprit, but salt too can be damaging – and that message needs to be passed on to unknowing patients.


Naturally, quality oral hygiene advice is essential too, especially for patients suffering from problems such as periodontal disease. Curapox offers a complete range of products to help patients to complete their daily oral regimen safely, gently and effectively, including the CS 5460 manual toothbrush with ultra-fine CUREN®filaments. Along with guidance on the right technique and the necessary dietary advice, it might be possible to reduce the risk of sodium on patients’ oral health.


Indeed, dental professionals can be instrumental in raising awareness, yet moving forward more must be done to expose salty foods and reduce the amount of salt used by takeaways and companies, as has been implemented with sugar.


For more information please call 01480 862084, email info@curaprox.co.ukor visit www.curaprox.co.uk


[i]Touger-Decker R, van Loveren C. Sugars and dental caries. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003, 78 (4):881s-892s. Accessed online March 2018 at https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/78/4/881S/4690063

[ii]University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. “Diets high in salt could deplete calcium in the body.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 July 2012. Accessed online at www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120724131604.htm

[iii]NIH Osteoporosis and related bone diseases national resource center: Osteoporosis overview. Accessed online March 2018 at https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/osteoporosis/overview

[iv]Jeffcoat M. The Association Between Osteoporosis and Oral Bone Loss. Journal of Periodontology. 2005; 76 (11-s): 2125-2132. Accessed online March 2018 at http://www.joponline.org/doi/abs/10.1902/jop.2005.76.11-S.2125

[v]Blood Pressure UK: Salt’s effects on your body. Accessed online March 2018 at http://www.bloodpressureuk.org/microsites/salt/Home/Whysaltisbad/Saltseffects

[vi]Kumar P, Mastan KMK, Chowdhary R, Shanmugam K. Oral manifestations in hypertensive patients: A clinical study. J Oral Maxillofac Pathol. 2012; 16(2): 215-221. Accessed online March 2018 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3424937/

[vii]National Diet and Nutrition Survey: Assessment of Dietary Sodium Levels Among Adults (aged 19-64) in England, 2011. Accessed online March 2018 at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/assessment-of-dietary-sodium-levels-among-adults-aged-19-64-in-england-2011


[viii]Action on Salt: Salt Awareness Week Survey 2018. Accessed online March 2018 at http://www.actiononsalt.org.uk/news/surveys/2018/salt-awareness-week-survey/

[ix]World Action on Salt and Health: Which Foods Contain Salt? Accessed online March 2018 at http://www.worldactiononsalt.com/less/how/whichfoods/

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