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Nocturnal Eating Can Harm Your Teeth

June 3, 2010

According to warnings from Danish experts, people who eat food in the middle of the night can cause serious damage to their teeth.

Researchers studied medical records of more than 2,200 Danes and found that snacking late at night increases the risk of tooth loss, regardless of the type of food eaten.

The University of Copenhagen researchers blamed changes in the way saliva works at night time, saying it tends to dry up, leaving food stuck to teeth, rather than being able to remove it from the mouth.

Working with colleagues from the USA, the team examined the medical records of 2,217 Danish men and women already enrolled in a medical study.

Of these, 173 were classed as nocturnal eaters — meaning 25 percent or more of their daily calorie intake came after dinner or would wake up in the middle of the night at least 2 times per week for a snack.

The researchers came to a significant conclusion when the participants were tracked over a six-year period.

The nocturnal eaters lost more teeth, even after accounting for other factors including age, smoking and sugar/carbs consumption.

Dr Jennifer Lundgren and colleagues say, even though dentists may not be able to curb patients from overnight feasting, it is important to make them aware of the risks associated with it.

“Practitioners should be aware of the oral health implications of nocturnal eating, increase screening and oral health education efforts among nocturnal eaters and make treatment referrals when appropriate,” the team said.

“Eating at night, when the mouth is driest and any food remains in the mouth longer, accentuates the impact of consuming sugary and acidic food and drinks,” Professor Damien Walmsley, scientific adviser to the British Dental Association told BBC News. 

“To minimize damage, it is important to brush teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, with one of those brushes coming immediately before bedtime,” he said.

“Where possible, consume only water for at least an hour before the final brush of the day,” Prof Walmsley added.

The team explained the study in the journal Eating Behaviors.

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