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861 Willow Drive
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Telephone: (919) 942-2154
A holistic approach to oral health and wellness.

Poor Diet = Serious Consequences
for Childrens Teeth

Our global “village,” vast and intertwined, has led to the widespread acceptance of inferior nutrition, in the view of Dr. Michael Willock, DDS, in Chapel Hill. “Typical American diets,” he notes, “value convenience over quality; we have become a culture that subsists primarily on packaged, processed, and fast foods—contaminated by toxins and sugar.” And he feels certain that diet is a key factor in the dental health of our children.

Consuming healthy, locally grown food is an everyday event for Dr. Willock and his wife, Gwen.

Although dental cavities are largely preventable, they remain the most common chronic disease of children aged 6 to 11 years and adolescents aged 12 to 19 years. Tooth decay is four times more common than asthma among adolescents aged 14 to 17 years. And not surprisingly, dental cavities also affect adults, with nine out of ten people over the age of 20 having some degree of tooth-root decay.

A report in General Dentistry, Dr. Willock notes, “found that quick meals made up of processed foods and carbonated beverages are contributing to premature loss of tooth enamel and weakening of overall tooth structure in many teens. These are often irreversible dental problems. These and other factors contribute to the serious issue of obesity in our young children. Obesity—which has nearly tripled among teenagers in the past decade—certainly affects oral health, and overweight teens have a 70 percent chance of carrying that extra weight into adulthood, increasing their chances of suffering with hypertension, heart disease, osteoporosis, and Type II diabetes.”

Beyond Dental Health

“What is becoming increasingly clear,” notes Dr. Willock, “is the strong link that exists between oral health and a wide range of other health issues, including heart disease. And what is also clear is that our level of oral health is directly linked to the quality of the food we take into our bodies. Some foods are toxic, acidic, and foster inflammation. Other natural foods are just the opposite.

“Without good oral health,” says Dr. Willock, “attaining optimal general health is an elusive—and probably unattainable—goal. Simply stated, infections in the mouth can cause major health problems in other organ systems in the body.”

He points to research from the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) revealing that periodontal bacteria—which affect about 15 percent of adults between 21 and 50 years old—can enter the blood stream and travel to major organs and begin new infections. “And periodontal disease,” he says, “has its beginnings at a young age caused by poor brushing, flossing, and eating habits. This allows plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, to build up on the teeth and harden.”

Brush and Floss

“While poor dental health—especially among children—is a serious concern,” says Dr. Willock, “the solution is really fairly simple. Achieving dental healthy in children is accomplished by just keeping their teeth clean—brushing and flossing—and watching their diet. Don’t let babies go to bed with a bottle to suck on at night. Don’t let your children eat a lot of junk food and drink sodas, which have two different acids in them. And remember that juices can do the same thing—they’re loaded with sugar. And if you do drink a soda, be sure that you wash your mouth out with water. It’s a good idea to drink some water before you go to bed; we don’t want anyone to go to bed with a lot of sugar on their teeth. It’s common sense.”

pH: The Alkaline/Acidic Balance

Dr. Willock suggests that one simple way to combat the rise of cavities is by taking a simple pH test. “This test measures the degree to which our body chemistry is acidic or alkaline; and, for good health, our bodies need to be slightly alkaline. Unfortunately, the typical American diet is acidic, and so our bodies are too acidic—a condition that results in cavities.

“It’s commonly understood that sugar is the biggest threat to children’s dental health,” he says. “And it is a threat. But, by itself, sugar doesn’t create cavities—acid does. The bacteria in dental plaque metabolizes sugar and then releases acid that breaks down the enamel. And it doesn’t stop with sugar. Studies have shown that sugar-free beverages that have low pH levels and contain acidic additives also cause damage to tooth enamel.

“That’s why I recommend the pH test as an excellent way for parents and their children to better understand and monitor what is going on in their bodies—and take corrective measures as needed. ( Ideally, our body chemistry should be slightly alkaline, ranging from 7.35 to 7.45 on the pH scale. The easiest way to monitor this acid-alkaline balance is by measuring the pH of urine or saliva—no blood test needed. Rinsing with baking soda in a couple of ounces of water once a day can help adjust an overly acidic pH.”

How Much Sugar?

“The answer to the question of ‘how much sugar’,” says Dr. Willock is ‘not much!’ “And the best advice I can give parents is: do your research. Start by researching the amount of sugar in your—and your children’s—daily diet. The daily recommended amount of sugar intake for men is 37.5g or 9 teaspoons and 25g or 6 teaspoons for women. The reality is that the average American’s intake is about 77g or 19 teaspoons. One can of regular cola, for example, has about 39g of sugar! And one study reported that the average male teenager consumes over 500 cups of sugar each year in just the sodas that he drinks. Of course, sugar is harmful to teeth, and acidic flavor additives can also erode and damage tooth enamel.”

The bottom line, says Dr. Willock: “Reducing the amount of sugar in your diet—and your children’s diets—will not only improve dental health, but health overall”

“My personal goal is to help educate my patients on the importance of good oral health. And that begins with good oral hygiene and a healthy, nutritious diet,” explains Dr. Willock. “I’m always searching for new information from experts in the field, looking for every scrap of knowledge that may be helpful to my patients.”