How the food you eat can cause tooth decay
When you put food in your mouth, it immediately meets the bacteria that live there. Plaque, for example, is a sticky film of bacteria.
These bacteria love the sugars found in many foods. So, when you don’t clean your teeth after eating, the bacteria and the sugar can combine to produce acids which can destroy the enamel (i.e the hard surface of the tooth).
In time, this can lead to tooth decay. The more often you eat and the longer foods are in your mouth, the more damage occurs.
Many foods that are nutritious and important in our diet contain sugars – such as fruits, milk, bread, cereals and even vegetables.
So the key is not to try and avoid sugar but to think before you eat.
When you eat is also important because each time you eat food that contains sugars, the teeth are attacked by acids for 20 minutes or more.
This means that foods that are eaten as part of a meal cause less harm. More saliva is released during a meal, helping to wash foods from the mouth and reduce the effects of acids.
Here are some tips to follow when choosing your meals and snacks.
- Eat a variety of foods from different food groups.
- Limit the number of snacks that you eat.
- If you do snack, choose nutritious foods, such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt, or a piece of fruit.
Its also important to brush your teeth twice a day and to clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners.
And of course regular visits to your dentist will help prevent problems from occurring and catch those that do occur while they are easier to treat.
Is bottled or tap water better for your teeth?
With many people concerned about the taste and purity of tap water, the sales of bottled water have increased significantly in recent years. However, there is a problem with bottled waters. Bottled waters usually don’t contain fluoride which in turn can increase the risk of cavities for some people.
Tap water goes through a process of purification designed to eliminate suspended materials, remove tastes and odors and kill microorganisms. Fluoride is added to most tap water supplies with the aim of reducing cavities.
Fluoride becomes incorporated into our teeth as they develop and makes them more resistant to decay. It can reverse the progress of early cavities and reduce the need for dental treatment. Mass water fluoridation has played an important role in reducing tooth decay.
If you drink a lot of bottled water, you can make up for this by using fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinse. Your dentist may even suggest a fluoride supplement if they notice an increase in cavities.
How sugar in your diet affects your teeth
The sugar content in the food you eat has a big effect on your teeth and gums.
When bacteria (plaque) come into contact with sugar in the mouth, acid is produced, which attacks the teeth for 20 minutes or more. This can eventually result in tooth decay.
Thats why drinking sugar-filled sodas, sweetened fruit drinks, and non-nutritious snacks can take a toll on teeth.
This is particularly true for children as their eating patterns and food choices affect how quickly they develop tooth decay.
Foods that contain sugars of any kind can contribute to tooth decay. That being said, almost all foods, including milk or vegetables, have some type of sugar. Many of them also contain important nutrients that are an important part in our diet.
To help control the amount of sugar you consume, read food labels and choose foods and beverages that are low in added sugars. Soft drinks,candy, cookies and pastries often contain added sugars.
How a healthy diet can help you have healthy teeth
Eating the right food plays an important role in developing healthy teeth and gums.
If your diet lacks certain nutrients, it may be more difficult for tissues in your mouth to fight infection and this can contribute to gum disease.
Although poor nutrition does not cause gum disease directly, the disease may progress faster and could be more severe in people with diets which are low in nutrients.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture makes recommendations on the nutrients, vitamins and minerals needed by your body – including your teeth and gums – to promote health and prevent disease.
We have different needs at various stages life and depending on our physical activity. The DOA website provides more information and your dentist will be able to discuss how your diet affects your teeth.
Here are some steps you can take to make sure what you eat doesn’t harm your teeth.
- Maintain a healthy diet.
- Drink plenty water.
- Limit the number of between-meal snacks. When you must snack, choose nutritious foods that are low in sugar.
- Keep a food diary for a week recording every item you eat and drink.
It will also help if you brush your teeth twice a day and floss regularly.
Schedule regular dental checkups and professional cleanings and talk to your dentist about how your diet affects your teeth.
Diabetes and your dental health: How your diet can affect your teeth
When diabetes is not controlled properly, high glucose levels in saliva may create problems that lead to an increased risk of tooth decay.
Your teeth are covered with plaque, a sticky film of bacteria. After you eat food that contains sugars or starches, the bacteria react with these sugars to release acids that attack tooth enamel. This can cause the enamel to break down and may eventually result in cavities.
Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and cleaning between your teeth with floss or an interdental cleaner helps remove decay-causing plaque.
Plaque that is not removed can eventually harden into calculus, or tartar. When tartar collects above the gumline, it becomes more difficult to clean thoroughly between teeth. This can lead to chronic inflammation and infection in the mouth.
(i.e. diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection, the gums are among the tissues likely to be affected).
Periodontal diseases are infections of the gum and bone that hold your teeth in place. Patients with inadequate blood sugar control appear to develop periodontal disease more often and more severely, and they lose more teeth than those who have good control of their diabetes.
(i.e. Due to the lower resistance and longer healing process, periodontal diseases often appear to be more frequent and more severe among persons with diabetes.)
You can help reduce these risks through good maintenance of blood sugar levels, a well-balanced diet, good oral care at home and regular dental checkups.