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Working from home? How to stop cavities and gaining weight from all that snacking

A lot has happened within the last few weeks and the global shutdown in an attempt to stop the progression of the COVID-19 virus has had a widespread effect in all industries. It can be quite overwhelming for many. The 2-week quarantine implemented in mid-March has led to many people having to work from home while kids are being home schooled. Parents have to keep getting creative to entertain their kids and themselves, while trying to keep the house clean and disinfected. Trying to stay hydrated and do home workouts to stay sane. Even having to search for toilet paper, masks and hand sanitizers, apart from washing your hands constantly. And the list can go on…

Not to further bring down the morale, but it is important to be aware and mindful of your daily habits more than ever. Especially when it comes to working from home – it requires a lot of discipline and motivation to stay at your desk at home working without getting up every few minutes to have a coffee or to snack on a fruit or cookie. This excessive and frequent snacking, simply due to boredom or mindless munching, can have an effect on your body weight, your physical stamina and endurance, and yes, on your teeth as well.

Experts say that you might gain 0.5-1kg in a week from mindless munching – 400 calories in a 75g bag of chips, followed by 90 calories in a Nescafe 3-in-1 coffee, and 200 calories in a 4 finger Kit Kat bar. If you grab a juice after, that can add another 120 calories per serving, not to mention the leftover pizza from last night... let’s not mention those calories. Does that sound like you? You may be putting yourself at risk of tooth decay, as well as exposing yourself to other health issues. While it may be convenient to work from home, not having to deal with the morning traffic getting to work nor having to change out of your pyjamas, this great convenience comes at a great price if you’re not careful. Groceries, lunch and dinner are delivered right to your door, with not much effort being required other than pressing a button on your phone. Set aside the weight gain and its effect on morale, stop for a moment and consider this. This unexpected snacking, if not controlled, will ultimately lead to unexpected dentist trips in the near future. Your oral health can definitely suffer.

If you find you’ve developed sensitivity or toothaches suddenly, try to understand why (and of course, fix them while they are still small). Determine the root cause – is it your high carb diet? Are you adding more sugar to your coffee? Have you been using many cough drops or sore throat lozenges recently? Did you slack off your oral hygiene routine as you’re home all day? Just remember, prevention is always the best cure.

Remember, every time you have a sugary snack or meal, if you don’t brush well after, plaque will accumulate on the teeth. When plaque combines with the sugars and starches from the foods you eat, the bacteria in your mouth will produce an acid in your mouth that attacks the layer of enamel protecting your teeth and weakening it – this will lead to tooth decay and increase your risk of dental disease. Stress also leads to cavities – its effect is on the entire body, including your mouth. Stress can lead to increased inflammation and dry mouth, not to mention mindless snacking – this ultimately means saliva flow is reduced, which is needed to neutralize the acids in our mouths, resulting in tooth decay and cavities.

All this to say, you don’t have to avoid these foods, but just be mindful of your habits and focus on your overall health and oral wellness. Eat a balanced diet, brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily. Take this time to introspect, to slow down, to be with your families... Be grateful to be alive.

Here are a few healthy tips I would consider:

· Plan ahead & eat a high protein breakfast – it is really the most important meal of the day

· Drink water – it will give you a feeling of “being full”

· Consciously eat less than you would eat in the office.

· Stay stimulated and connected socially – working in isolation can be lonely

· Get up every hour of work to do some stretching exercises, meditation or even a strenuous routine for 15 minutes or so to break a sweat

· Be mindful in your grocery shopping – don’t hoard, think of others, and aim to reduce the availability of high calorie or junk food at home

· Eat real food. Cut back on added sugar and processed food, such as white bread or flavoured milk. Eat but not for 9 hours straight.

· If you plan on snacking on a sugar-containing drink, drink it within a limited time instead of sipping on it all day.

· Aim to give your mouth a 3-hour break between sugary foods/ drinks

· Do not brush your teeth right after having anything acidic, such as coffee, tea or vitamin C effervescent tablets, but do brush twice a day and floss daily

· After sugary foods/drinks, rinse your mouth with water or chew sugar free gum for a few minutes.

· Watch out for hard candy, chewable vitamins, and cough drops.

Keep a balanced diet. Don’t slack down on your daily oral hygiene routine. Making smart food choices will make you look great, feel great and keep your teeth looking great.

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