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Moderation is key in our (sweet) celebrations

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Adopting mindful practices and maintaining regular oral care routines enable us to preserve our smiles. Photo by Tim Bish - Unsplash

By: Assoc Prof Dr. Lim Ghee Seong, Dr. Siti Fauzza Ahmad

In the mosaic of Malaysia’s diverse cultural celebrations, festive seasons bring lots of joy and a delectable array of treats. Amidst the revelry, our culinary choices often lean towards sweets, chocolates, cookies, and traditional delicacies, contributing to the sweetness of the celebrations. However, this delightful indulgence poses challenges to our oral health, prompting us to explore its effects and consider practices for maintaining a healthy smile during these joyous occasions.

Malaysia’s festive seasons, including Hari Raya, Deepavali, Christmas and Chinese New Year, are synonymous with delightful treats and familial gatherings. Sweets, desserts, and carbonated drinks take centre stage, leading to an increase in sugar consumption, a known culprit for oral health issues. The effects include an elevated risk of cavities, gum health concerns, and enamel erosion, particularly when coupled with busy agendas that may compromise regular dental routines.

The statistics for sugar-related oral health problems in Malaysia indicate a significant impact on dental health, particularly among children. A Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) study among 3- to 6-year-old Malaysian pre-schoolers found that approximately two-thirds of the children had at least one untreated caries. Additionally, one in 10 pre-schoolers had more than six times the regular sugar exposure. Another study conducted by Department of Paediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics, Faculty of Dentistry, Universiti Malaya (UM), reported a caries prevalence of 61.6% among 11–12 year old indigenous children in Malaysia, highlighting the high prevalence of caries in this population.

In order to navigate oral health issues during festive seasons, moderation becomes the key. Enjoying festive treats in moderation allows for a balance between celebration and oral health. Hydration and cleansing play crucial roles—drinking plenty of water helps cleanse the mouth of sugar and acid residues, supporting saliva production for better oral health. Prioritizing timely oral care routines, such as brushing and flossing, remains fundamental in preventing oral health issues.

Choosing wisely when it comes to sweets is another practice to adopt. Opting for treats with less sugar or considering sugar-free alternatives can reduce the risk of cavity formation. Also, it is advisable to only consume them during meal time, during the visits, and not in between meals so that there is a time-lapse for sugar and acid. Post-festivity check-ups are recommended to address any concerns promptly, with professional cleaning helping mitigate potential issues that may arise.

Inculcating healthy habits for a radiant smile involves educational initiatives led by dental professionals. Raising awareness about the impact of festive indulgences on oral health empowers the public to make informed choices. Community engagement through events and workshops during festive seasons provides practical tips on maintaining oral health, emphasizing the importance of preventive care. Ensuring accessibility to dental services during festive periods encourages individuals to seek professional guidance and care.

In conclusion, as we immerse ourselves in Malaysia’s diverse celebrations, savouring sweetness in moderation is key. Adopting mindful practices and maintaining regular oral care routines enable us to preserve our smiles and embrace festive seasons with confidence, knowing that our oral health is well taken care of. Let’s celebrate joyously, smile brightly, and cherish the cultural fabric that makes Malaysia truly special.

And Merry Christmas to everyone!

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The authors are from the Department of Restorative Dentistry, Faculty of Dentistry, Universiti Malaya. They may be reached at g.s.lim@um.edu.my

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