Did you know that when it comes to taking care of your teeth, what you eat can have an impact on your oral health? Certain foods can speed up tooth decay, while others minimize acids in the mouth that dissolve tooth enamel. So being careful about what you eat can be good not only for the rest of your body, but for your mouth as well.
All foods, but especially sweet foods and carbohydrates, are broken down into sugars. Bacteria that live in your mouth and on your teeth feed on these sugars when you eat. Tiny food particles get stuck around and in between teeth and turn into the perfect food for bacteria. When these bacteria are well-fed on sugar, they produce acid as a waste product. It’s this acid that can be a problem, because it wears away enamel, leading to tooth decay.
One of the ways you can prevent tooth decay is to keep the supply of sugar stuck in your teeth to a minimum.
On the negative side, foods that break down into sugar quickly are very hard on teeth. This refers to foods that are already full of sugar like cookies, cake, and candy. Also very acid-producing are simple carbohydrates, like chips, bread, French fries, or crackers. Some fruits, such as bananas, are good for your body but have high sugar levels. These should be eaten when you are able to clean your teeth soon after eating them.
Also contributing to tooth decay are foods that tend to stick in the teeth. Even if these foods don’t break down into sugar right away, their particles will stick in crevices of the teeth where the tongue and saliva can’t easily clean them off. There they can slowly convert to sugar, and acid. Chewy or sticky candy, dried fruit, popcorn, and puffed grains all tend to stick in teeth.
Better for your mouth are hard fruits, such as apples, and vegetables. Veggies don’t have the source of sugar that bacteria love, and hard fruits are full of water that tends to dilute the sugar. The way you chew them also stimulates saliva, which cleans the teeth.
The best foods for your mouth are cheese, chicken, meats, and nuts. These foods don’t contain many carbohydrates, require chewing, can help neutralize acid in the mouth, and often contain minerals such as phosphorus which may even help build up tooth enamel.
The amount of time foods spend in your mouth makes a difference too. Eating one huge piece of pie with your lunch is better for your teeth than slowly sipping sweetened soda all day long.
As you think about how to best care for your mouth and your whole body, don’t forget to take into consideration the foods you’re eating. Healthy choices and regular dental exams can make a big difference!