Many people use the start of the year to lose weight by exercising and eating healthier. These are actually the two most common New Year’s resolutions. Not surprising the same foods that are bad for your weight are also bad for your mouth. If you want to prevent cavities what you eat and how often you eat are very important, that’s because the food affects your teeth long after you have swallowed your food. Poor nutrition also affects your the health of your gums (periodontal health).
The changes in your mouth begin the second you eat certain foods. The abundant supply of bacteria in your mouth make dental plaque becomes more acidic. The acid starts the process of demineralization which is the initial stages of tooth decay. I am not just referring to foods like candy, cookies and soda which are obviously bad for your weight and teeth. Foods that are high in fermentable carbohydrates like bread, crackers and bananas are bad for your teeth as well because they break down (in your mouth) into simple sugars: fructose, glucose, lactose and maltose. These simple sugars then become a tremendous food source for the acid producing bacteria in your mouth. The bacteria use the food to produce plague and acid which continues to attack the tooth for 30 minutes after a snack or meal.
The longer food stays near a tooth the more acid and demineralization of tooth structure occurs. So foods that are sticky or break down into small pieces in to grooves of the teeth are worse. It is both the type of food and the frequency that it is consumed that elevate the risk of tooth decay. This continued attack is why habits like heavy snacking contribute to obesity but is also reset the clock on the 30 minute acid attack. So multiple snacks between meals means that the teeth are exposed to literally hours a day of acid demineralization.
On the other side of the equations some foods actually help prevent tooth decay by stimulating the flow of acid neutralizing saliva. Sugar-free chewing gum is a good example – it stimulates saliva, it mechanically removes sugary substances from the surface of the teeth and when sweetened with sugar substitute xylitol can actually reduce the amount of plaque and bacteria in the mouth.
Healthy Foods are good for you waistline as well as your smile.
Drs. David and Janna Civils
1114 Magnolia Street