It is no surprise that we need our teeth to eat. However, what you choose to eat can either harm or help your teeth. While you may understand the relationship between sugary foods and cavities, there are other foods that encourage decay as well as some foods that help to prevent decay.
It is important to identify the foods and drinks that are not only fueling your body, but also fueling plaque inside your mouth. Plaque is the culprit to cavities. Colgate describes how plaque and cavities develop, “these bacteria use ingredients found in our diet and saliva to grow. Plaque causes cavities when the acids from plaque attack teeth after eating. With repeated acid attacks, the tooth enamel can break down and a cavity may form.”
Which ingredients in our diet does plaque use to grow? Which foods can help reduce the formation of plaque? Are you eating for a healthy smile? We’ve made a quick list to help guide you.
Foods That Invite Decay
Sticky Sweets and Candies: If you find it difficult to deny your “sweet tooth,” it is best to avoid sugary treats that stick around for long periods of time, such as caramels and lollipops. If you eat other high-sugared desserts (like cake and cookies), do so in moderation and try to brush your teeth afterwards.
Refined Carbs and Starches: You may know carbohydrates for their threat to your waistline, but these foods can also be harmful to your teeth. Pasta, bread and crackers have carbs which break down into sugars and feed bacteria and plaque inside your mouth.
Drinks with Added Sugar: Don’t forget about the sugar content in your beverages. Sodas and some fruit juices have high amounts of sugar that can bathe your teeth in cavity-causing substances throughout the day.
Citrus Fruits: Avoid keeping lemons and other citrus foods in your mouth for long periods of time, as they can contribute to enamel erosion and make your teeth more vulnerable to cavity attacks.
Food that Fights Decay
Fibrous Fruits and Vegetables: Not only can these foods give your teeth a natural scrubbing when you chew them, but they are also known to stimulate saliva production. We need saliva to rinse away food debris and bacteria and neutralize acids in your mouth. Consider a crisp apple or raw carrot for these benefits.
Dairy Products: Cheese, milk and plain yogurt contain building blocks for strong teeth. Calcium, phosphates and Vitamin D foster a strong enamel and can even form a barrier between acids and your tooth enamel to further protect your pearly whites. Say “cheese” for cheese! If you’re allergic to milk, consider calcium-fortified orange juice or soy milk.
Sugarless Gum: Chewing gum doesn’t have to be bad for your teeth, particularly when you choose a sugar-free variety. Sugarless gum can rinse harmful acids off your teeth to protect your smile after meals and snacks. If you choose a gum that contains xylitol, it can offer the additional benefits of preventing the growth of cavity-causing bacteria (Streptococcus mutans).
Green and Black Teas: While southern sweet tea is not on the “good for your teeth” list, there are certain teas like green and black tea that can benefit your oral health. Tea contains special compounds that suppress bacteria, which works to inhibit the tooth decay development process.
Fluoridated Water: Be careful about solely relying on bottled water to meet your body’s hydration requirements. Your teeth need an important mineral called fluoride to help build your tooth enamel. If you don’t have access to fluoridated tap water, be sure to ask your dentist about fluoride supplements.
Way to Help Your Teeth When You Eat Cavity-Causing Ingredients
It may not be easy to completely avoid the foods and drinks that contribute to tooth decay. However, there are steps you can take to lessen the harmful effects. If you have crackers, hard candies or an occasional soda, do your best to remove the remnants inside your mouth as soon as possible If you can’t get to your toothbrush, you may drink a glass of water to rinse away sugars and acids or chew a piece of sugarless gum.
At Grateful Dental, we welcome the opportunity to help patients avoid cavities. When tooth decay goes untreated, it can lead to painful symptoms as well as tooth loss. While we offer a full menu of dental services in preventative care, we also provide tooth-colored fillings when a cavity does develop. The sooner you treat a cavity, the more conservatively it can be repaired. Call our Marietta office today to learn more!