A healthy, well-balanced diet is one of the foundations of good health. Although you likely already know that the foods you eat can influence your weight, your risk for certain diseases, your energy levels, and your overall health, do know how your diet affects your teeth? The foods and beverages you consume each day can alter the health of your teeth and gums – for better or for worse. Sugar is the most infamous perpetrator, of course, but it isn’t the only edible harming your oral health. To discover how your diet affects your teeth, scroll down.
How Your Diet Affects Your Teeth
To better understand how your diet affects your teeth, let’s review some bad choices and good choices you can make in your day-to-day life:
Tooth decay develops when bacteria makes contact with sugar in the mouth, creating a harmful acid that damages the teeth. Sugars contribute to this process, which is why dentists urge their patients to avoid sugary treats.
To improve your oral health, avoid foods that contain added sugars. In addition to obvious sugary treats like candy, cookies, and pastries, remember that some items contain more sugar than you might think. For example, soft drinks, juices, canned fruit, granola (and granola bars), cereal, pasta sauce, barbecue sauce, and yogurt sometimes contain surprising amounts of sugar. Get into the habit of reading nutrition labels, so that you can evaluate each product’s sugar content and ingredient list. Keep an eye out for hidden sugars, which are listed under over 50 different names, including sucrose, dextrose, maltose, barley malt, and high-fructose corn syrup.
Soft and Sticky Foods
When food lingers in the mouth, resulting in prolonged contact with the bacteria on the teeth, more and more acid is produced. For this reason, you should avoid sticky foods like caramels, honey, molasses, syrup, and jelly beans. In addition, avoid soft foods that often get stuck in the crevices of your teeth, like potato chips and raisins. When you do eat these foods, brush your teeth soon afterward.
Acidic foods like citrus fruits and pickles can (as you might have guessed) increase your mouth’s exposure to acid. This can cause your teeth to lose minerals. Although you shouldn’t avoid oranges, lemons, tomatoes, and the like, try to eat them as a part of a larger meal to minimize the effects of the acid.
Fermentable and Starchy Carbohydrates
Found in crackers, cookies, and chips as well as cereal, soft drinks, and candies, fermentable carbohydrates increase the amount of acid in your mouth. To neutralize the intensity of their negative effects, combine them with foods that are good for teeth like cheese, nuts, vegetables, and fruit. In addition, starchy foods like bread, pasta, and crackers contain simple carbohydrates, which can linger in the mouth and transform into simple sugars. Bacteria will feed on these sugars, producing tooth decay.
Soft Drinks & Bottled Tea
If you often sip on soda or bottled tea throughout the day, I have bad news. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, these are amongst the most harmful products to consume if you want good oral health. They are filled with sugars, empty calories, and flavor additives, and they will break down your teeth over time, especially if you drink them throughout the day.
When you fast between meals, you give your saliva time to wash away food particles that could cause tooth decay. If you eat often throughout the day, on the other hand, snacking between larger meals, you constantly fuel the bacteria in your mouth. Limit your snacking, choose healthy snacks (apples, carrots, nuts, etc.), and brush your teeth after eating snacks when you can.
Some foods and beverages can stain your teeth if you’re not careful. Common culprits include tea, coffee, red wine, soft drinks, berries, and food colorings (often found in brightly colored candy, popsicles, and sweetened drinks). To reduce the effects of staining agents, brush your teeth immediately after consuming them (or at least rinse your mouth with water). In addition, use a straw when drinking staining beverages and schedule regular dental cleanings.
Now that you know how your diet affects your teeth, make proactive choices to prevent tooth decay and protect your teeth in the future. Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet is the first step. The USDA’s interactive ChooseMyPlate tool can help you understand what to eat and drink on a daily basis. Generally, aim for lots of fruits and vegetables (they should fill at least half your plate), whole grains, a variety of proteins, a small amount of dairy, and limited sweets. In addition, use these dietary tips for good oral health:
- Drink water throughout the day, making it your go-to beverage.
- Snack on firm fruits like apples and pears, which have a high water content and stimulate saliva (which washes away food particles and acid).
- A small portion of aged cheese works well after a meal, as it buffers the acid in your mouth.
- Fibrous foods like carrots and celery can clean away plaque and freshen your breath.
- Dairy products provide beneficial minerals like calcium, phosphates, and vitamin D, which protect your teeth against tooth decay.
- Feel free to chew sugarless gum (especially if it contains xylitol), which can reduce bacteria in the mouth and increase the production of saliva.
Finally, remember to brush and floss your teeth after meals and schedule regular appointments with your dentist. Speaking of which, if you’re looking for an experienced, reliable, and friendly dentist in or near Springfield, Missouri, contact Wilkinson Dental. Dr. Wilkinson and his team will give you the personalized treatment you deserve using state-of-the-art technology. Schedule your first appointment today by calling 417-708-0556 or requesting an appointment online. We look forward to hearing from you!