The food that we eat can have a big impact on our oral health. Some foods and beverages invite tooth decay while others help fight the buildup of plaque.
What is plaque and why do we need to get rid of it?
Plaque is a thin, invisible film of sticky bacteria that covers the surfaces of your teeth. When starches or sugars from the food you eat come in contact with plaque, it releases acids that attack the enamel of your teeth. Relentless attacks can cause the enamel to erode and break down, eventually resulting in cavities.
Here are a few recommendations from the American Dental Association (ADA).
The good stuff
- Milk and dairy products like cheese and yogurt are low in sugar but are rich in calcium that helps strengthen your teeth. Researchers have discovered that cheese creates a film around teeth which further protects it against the acids that attack enamel.
- Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables like carrots, kale and celery sticks act like brush and bristles that help scrub your teeth clean. They also stimulate salivary flow which is your best natural defense against cavities and gum disease.
- Chew sugarless gums to increase the flow of saliva, thereby reducing plaque acid, strengthening your teeth and reducing your risk of tooth decay.
- Nuts are a rich source of protein and minerals that are good for the teeth. Stay away from sweets and sugary snacks and choose non sugar-coated almonds and walnuts instead.
- Water, especially fluoridated water, is the best beverage for maintaining your oral health. That's because fluoride helps make your teeth more resistant to the acid attacks.
The bad stuff
- Carbonated soft drinks, including diet soda, are acidic and therefore, are bad for your teeth. Soft drinks are heavily laden with sugar that feeds the bacteria in the plaque which then produces acids that attack the teeth. Caffeinated beverages like colas can also dry out your mouth that can lead to bad breath and tooth decay.
- Sports and energy drinks, with their high acidity and sugar levels, can cause irreversible damage to the teeth. If you must, remember to chew sugarless gum or rinse your mouth with water afterwards.
- Hard sticky sweets and candies constantly bathe your teeth in sugar and can also trigger dental emergencies such as a broken or chipped tooth.
- Starchy foods like saltine crackers and potato chips convert to sugar very quickly, providing sustenance for cavity-forming bacteria. These can also get mushy and get easily lodged in between your teeth.
- Alcohol causes dehydration and dry mouth. Those who drink excessively may find their saliva flow is diminished over time, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Heavy alcohol use also raises your risk for oral cancer.
Here are a few tips to help reduce the risk of getting tooth decay from the food you eat.
- Eat sugary foods with meals.
- Limit between-meal snacks.
- Drink more water all throughout the day.
- Thoroughly rinse your mouth with water after eating or drinking.
- Brush your teeth twice for two minutes at least 30 minutes after a meal.
- Floss daily to make sure no food debris are stuck in between your teeth.