Taking good care of your teeth isn’t just about brushing and flossing twice a day and visiting the dentist for your check-up every six months.
Your diet is also an important part of dental health. At Space Age Smiles, a dental office in Clear Lake, we want to help you preserve your oral health by being aware of the potential consequences of what you are eating and drinking.
Many patients come in with cavities when they visit our Houston dentist, Dr. Heather Darcey. It is no secret that cavities are caused by sugary foods. When you consume sugar, you are feeding the bad bacteria in the mouth that can contribute to the formation of tooth decay. Our mouths are filled with hundreds of bacteria. Some bacteria are beneficial to our oral health, but certain types of harmful bacteria actually feed on sugar. Thus, the sugar in the foods we consume powers them, resulting in the production of acids that destroy tooth enamel.
Cavities, which are caused by bacterial infection, are a direct result of these acids. Cavities begin in the enamel, but are generally not diagnosed until the hole has eroded deeper into the inner layers of the tooth where the infection can eventually lead to tooth pain and tooth loss if not treated properly.
Foods that contain sugars of any kind can contribute to tooth decay. To control the amount of sugar you eat, read the nutrition facts and ingredient labels on foods and beverages and choose options that are lowest in sugar. Common sources of sugar in the diet include soft drinks, candy, cookies and pastries.
Carbohydrates are many people’s primary source of calories these days thanks to the modern diet’s foundation focusing on grains and pasta. This is bad news for your teeth. To put it into perspective, experts agree that “foods such as chips, bread, pasta or crackers can be as harmful to the teeth as candy.”
Some sugars occur naturally in food and drink, such as fruit, honey and milk. The naturally occurring sugar in dried fruit, such as raisins, dates and apricots can also contribute to tooth decay.
Citric Acid is also a culprit for breaking down teeth enamel and causing cavities. Food and drinks high in citric acid causes tooth enamel to dissolve quickly, especially if one does not practice good oral hygiene every day. Grapefruits, limes, oranges and lemons may not seem harmful since they are a rich source of vitamin C and other nutrients. However, with regular consumption, citrus fruits may cause tooth enamel to erode over time.
If your diet lacks certain nutrients, it may be more difficult for tissues in your mouth to resist infection. This may contribute to gum disease. Severe gum disease is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Many researchers believe that the disease progresses faster and is potentially more severe in people with poor nutrition.
So, if you are looking to promote good oral health and fight tooth decay, the best thing you can do is seek to limit your carbohydrate intake–especially simple and refined carbs. Of course, it’s best to cut sugars and grains out of your diet completely, although that can be difficult for those of us who consume bread and similar products as daily staples.
If you are looking to commit with full force, consider looking into a whole food or “paleo” style diet which seeks to reduce processed foods (and the carbohydrates that result from processing ingredients) as much as possible. Limit your consumption of sugary beverages that coat your teeth and also stay away from candy and sugary gum that stays in your mouth for long periods of time.
Also, rather than focusing completely on what you should be consuming less of, pay attention to the good foods that you should be eating more of, like fiber-rich and nutrient-dense vegetables, low sugar fruits like berries, and mineral-rich, low-sugar dairy products like whole cheeses. These foods help fight tooth decay by giving your body and its good bacteria more of what it needs to stay healthy and fight off bad bacteria.