The urge to grab a snack in the middle of the night can be a real battle especially, if you’re on a diet or just naturally restless at night. It almost becomes easier to convince yourself that you deserve a treat, despite it being at an odd hour.
New findings suggest that eating late at night can increase weight, insulin and cholesterol levels and other conditions. But did you know that it can also lead to loss of teeth?
Our General Dentist, Dr. Lina Shaar explains the link between midnight snacking and loss of teeth.
Why do people crave midnight snacks?
There are multiple reasons why people crave late-night or midnight snacks. Majority of people feel it is actually very similar to an addiction where many do it out of routine and boredom. Individuals have to figure out what makes them want to indulge. For example, what is their go-to-snack, when, where and why? Do they eat alone or with people? Is there something specific that gets them to crave a midnight snack?
Is midnight snacking linked to environmental or inherited factors?
Environmental factors play a big role such as seeing food advertisements while watching TV late at night, procrastinating work/studying or even just insomnia makes people want to eat just to fill up a gap. Some common reasons that lead people to eat late-night snacks is loneliness, nutritional imbalance, grief or frustration/anger.
In general, eating at late hours has both physiological and psychological effects. Physiological effects include weight gain, tooth decay, tooth loss, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, etc. Some psychological effects include insomnia, depression, lack of self-esteem, etc. During the day, our body is more active and our organs are functioning at high capacity, meaning we can metabolize the food and process the energy more efficiently. While at night, our genes that regulate metabolism slow down and therefore can’t process the energy from food as efficiently. Even our stomach is full at the end of the day, so it’s not our stomach that is telling us its hungry. It’s actually our brain which is why it becomes an addiction and routine.
Is there a correlation between consuming midnight snacks and loss of teeth?
Yes, there is a correlation between midnight snacking and loss of teeth. Those who eat high-fat diets especially at night tend to have a number of health problems such as those I mentioned earlier, with one of them being loss of teeth. Usually after consumption of food, the saliva washes away food debris and changes the pH level back to the neutral levels required for a healthy oral cavity with reduced bacteria levels. However, at night we have less saliva flow, so no matter what you eat, you will be providing the bacteria an atmosphere for it to grow and cause tooth decay and gum disease, ultimately leading to tooth loss.
Does it cause decay?
Yes, late-night snacking causes tooth decay. The severity of the decay depends on what you eat and also lack of oral hygiene plays an even greater role towards your oral health status. Patients often brush their teeth in the morning to get rid of bad breath. When in reality every individual should brush a minimum of twice a day, with the most important one being at night before bed. Why? Because at night the saliva flow/production slows down, which provides the perfect atmosphere for the bacteria to thrive and cause tooth decay, gum disease and loss of teeth. Alongside brushing, flossing is just as important to help remove bacteria from in between the teeth, which is the most common place for cavities. Therefore, brushing at night provides dental protection; which means less buildup of bacteria on teeth (plaque and calculus), less cavities and provides you with fresh breath before going to sleep.
Do you have any tips on how to prevent midnight snacking?
To help overcome this issue, each person has to first assess what makes them crave food. Once they find out the reason, they can try these suggested tips:
- Have a well-balanced meal. If you still feel hungry at night after dinner maybe your body is not getting enough nutrition, get a full body checkup with your doctor. Otherwise, you can try to have a light and healthy snack such as berries, cheese or dates instead of chocolate.
- Drink lots of water! Your body’s need for water can sometimes be confused with food cravings. You can try flavored water to change up the routine of plain water.
- Avoid acidic foods/drinks when possible, they weaken the enamel.
- Reduce the amount of simple sugars or carbohydrates to reduce the amount of tooth decay.
- Stay occupied around the house – for example do house chores, read a book or listen to music.
- Aromatherapy using aromatic candles or incense has been proven in research to decrease your appetite (avoid chocolate or vanilla aromas).
- If you are going to snack, then snack very early in the evening and drink lots of water afterwards to wash away the food debris from your teeth.
- Most importantly floss and brush your teeth at night before you sleep!
- Visit your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings.