In an effort to prevent cavities and maintain the overall health of your teeth, it’s important to remember that the foods you eat, and how often you eat them, are affecting good oral hygiene. Your mouth begins to change as soon as you place food in it. The bacteria that lives in your mouth turns the sugar in the food that you eat into acids. It is the acid that wears away the enamel on teeth and begins tooth decay. Keep in mind that the more you eat, the more your teeth are being exposed. Read on to learn about some simple things you can do to better protect your teeth!
Best and Worst Picks for Foods and Drinks
Some of the better foods for your teeth include: various cheeses, chicken and other meats, nuts, and milk. It is thought that these foods protect tooth enamel by supplying calcium and phosphorus necessary to re-mineralize teeth. Re-mineralizing is a natural process in which minerals are placed back into your tooth enamel after being removed by acids.
Additional good food choices are crunchy/firm fruits such as apples and pears, and also vegetables. Although fruits and vegetables contain sugar, those that are high in water content tend to counteract the decay process because the water dilutes the natural sugars. These foods also stimulate the production of saliva, which washes away food particles and shielding acid. Acidic foods, which would include citrus fruits and tomatoes should be eaten along with larger meals to dilute the acid.
Now let’s get to the somewhat obvious, “poor food choices.” Of course, this list is going to contain anything high in sugar, and the especially bad ones have a sticky consistency as well, such as lollipops, mints, or hard candies. Others include french fries, bananas, raisins, breads, pies, cakes, basically anything sweet and tasty! Because of their high sugar content, they are pretty much a fuel source for bacteria in your mouth.
Poor beverage choices are going to also be the ones high in sugar content. Try to stick to water, milk, and unsweetened drinks. If you do choose to go with one of these heavily sweetened picks, brush after consumption. Definitely avoid continual all day sipping of these, and stick to water or an unsweetened drink for your continuous hydrating needs.
Choose Sugar Substitutes and Sugar Free
There are many sugar substitute options on the market for cutting down on sugar that still look and taste like sugar. The difference is, these “faux sugars” are not digested in the same way that true sugar is, so they don’t give life to the bacteria in your mouth, and thus they do not create decay-inducing acids. There are many choices that are available known by their marketed names of Splenda, Equal, Purevia, Stevia, etc.
Also, be aware that foods which state “sugar free” aren’t necessarily free of all sugar. This simply means that no additional sugar has been added to them, such as fruit of course, and also others such as honey, molasses, fructose, or rice syrup. Natural sweeteners contain a similar number of calories as sugars and can be equally as harmful to teeth. Not sure if something contains a natural sweetener? Simply check the label under sugars or carbohydrates and be aware that words ending in “ose” usually mean that they contain a natural sweetener.
Chewing Gum: Good or Bad?
Some good news for you! Chewing sugarless gum is actually beneficial to your teeth since the chewing helps remove food that has become stuck in your teeth. Gum chewing also encourages saliva flow that helps neutralize mouth acids. Even better, gums that contain the sugar substitute xylitol can even reduce cavities.
On top of avoiding sugary foods, here are some other tips to help you maintain great oral hygiene:
- Brush at least twice a day, but preferably after meals and snacks
- Pick a toothpaste containing fluoride
- Floss at least once a day
- Make a habit of seeing your dentist every six months for a routine check-up and cleaning
- Choose a variety of foods to maintain overall health and cut down on those with high amounts of sugar