Oral health, feasts and festivalsNews
Posted by: The Probe 27th October 2020
Halloween heralds the beginning of the end of another year. Even if Autumn has been
mild, once Halloween is here it’s time to accept that winter is on its way. In recent years, Halloween seems to have become a bigger deal in the UK – a development that many of us have greeted with despair. If it has become more popular where you live and practise, trick or treating is a tradition to make any dental practitioner wince, particularly if your own children have been insistent on going out to collect buckets full of sweets.
On any “normal” year, Halloween for DCPs is a chance to remind our patients about the dangers associated with the over-consumption of sugar. Sugar has been the focus of several public health campaigns to help families find practical ways to reduce their everyday consumption. In 2018, a report from Public Health England (PHE) and the Food Standards Agency led to grim headlines, when its findings revealed that sugar made up 13.5% of 4 to 10-year-olds and 14.1% of 11 to 18-year-olds daily calorie intakes, which is way above the daily recommendations.[i] The Sugar Tax (really, a soft drinks levy) was also introduced in 2018; in 2019, another PHE report revealed that not as much progress had been made as had been hoped in terms of how the food and drinks industry was reformulating certain products to reduce their sugar content, especially the “hidden” sugars in things like breakfast cereals.[ii]
Fast-forward to Autumn 2020 and we’re all still reeling from the impact of a worldwide health crisis that has changed our lives forever. As for PHE, it spent most of this year otherwise engaged with COVID-19 and in late summer, it was announced that it is due to be replaced with a new body, the National Institute for Health Protection. The government launched its UK-wide “Better Health” plan in July, but the focus is broader and the message more urgent than it has ever been. Maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle, of which eating a low-sugar diet is obviously key, has been linked with having a lower risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19, along with a host of other diseases.[iii]
But now Halloween has rolled around – many won’t miss the opportunity to point out how 2020 has been like one long horror movie that isn’t over yet – and whether you love it or hate it, there is a strong argument that it is the first time to party in a party season that will run until December 31st. So, if we want to be heard, our oral health messages need to be put in context of the bigger picture.
At time of writing, how we will be able to celebrate the various feasts and festivals that we always look forward to, and that mark the end of the year, is unknown. The fun starts with Halloween, then comes Guy Fawkes’ night, also Diwali, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s Eve… all occasions to get together with family and friends. Regular get-togethers that many of us always took for granted aren’t something we have been able to enjoy for much of 2020.
But doing things that make us feel good and happy have become essential for self-care and enduring the downs in a year of very few ups. So, as we head towards the season of (over)indulgence, oral health education must celebrate the positive. As a DCP, who sees the new challenges your patients now face, you will know that it will take more than a few catchy slogans to engage with them successfully.
As we all look forward to fun, festivals, and feasting, anything and everything that makes people feel “normal” and hopeful must be encouraged in moderation. Yes, the end of the year will look and feel a little different, but let’s work with what we have. These have always been occasions to have fun and appreciate how lucky we are. Now more than ever, we know that good health is a blessing to be appreciated, so we must tell our patients to treat themselves well! Your patients should enjoy the time to be together, to connect, reflect and celebrate, but also understand that good health – of which their oral health is a huge component – is a true privilege. They should eat, drink and be merry, make good choices and swaps when and if possible, but never compromise self-care in the form of everyday cleaning using high-quality tools such as TANDEX brushes.
At this time of year, DCPs are quite used to being the party poopers. Once Halloween is over, articles warning about overindulging in festive drinks – like the speciality coffees, full of sugar and fat – start to appear in the press. But now is a time to make your message balanced and realistic – a bit of this, a bit of that, to respect and look after mind, body, soul and mouth as we prepare to say a not-so-fond farewell to 2020.
Author Kimberley Lloyd- Rees on behalf of Tandex
Kimberley graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2010, where she now works as a clinical tutor in Dental Hygiene and Therapy as well as working in practice. She has spent her career working across a variety of specialist private and mixed dental practices, for the MOD and volunteering her time to a dental charity in Nepal.
[i] Results of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) rolling programme for 2014 to 2015 and 2015 to 2016. Published 16 March 2018. Link: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/ndns-results-from-years-7-and-8-combined (accessed August 2020).
[ii] Obesity increases risk of Covid-19 death by 48%, study finds. The Guardian, 26 August 2020. Link: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/26/obesity-increases-risk-of-covid-19-death-by-48-study-finds (accessed August 2020).
[iii] Sugar reduction: progress between 2015 and 2018. PHE, 20 September 2020. Link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sugar-reduction-progress-between-2015-and-2018 (accessed August 2020).
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