We all know that our diet can affect our physical health. Weight gain, lack of energy, and even heart disease can all be caused by poor dietary choices. These nutritional choices can also affect our teeth.
Of course, consuming too much sugar can lead to cavities and, eventually, tooth decay. But there are many other foods that could be hurting (or helping) your dental health.
Daily staples such as rice, bread, and potatoes are broken down in the mouth by enzymes. This process releases glucose, a simple sugar that the bacteria in our mouths feed on, producing acid as a byproduct. This acid is what causes our enamel to deteriorate, and leads to tooth decay.
While the release of glucose from these foods can increase your chances of tooth decay, their decay potential is significantly less than table sugar. Some starches, such as whole grains, may even help reverse tooth decay. However, many foods we consume included both starches and added sugars, like breakfast cereals, biscuits, and donuts. This double helping of sugars can, in the long run, be very detrimental to our teeth if they are not properly cared for, and if these foods are not consumed in moderation.
While many fruits contain natural sugars, they are not harmful to dental health if they are consumed fresh. In fact, consuming fresh fruits may even reduce the risk of tooth decay. Dried or processed fruits, however, release free sugars, which feed acid-producing bacteria in our mouths, accelerating tooth decay.
Fresh, fibrous vegetables can also confer some protection from tooth decay. Because these tougher vegetables are more difficult to chew, they stimulate the production of saliva, which neutralizes the bacteria-produced acid that threatens the health of our enamel.
With all this talk about acidity, we’re sure you saw this one coming. Over time, chronic mouth acidity softens your enamel’s mineral content, causing it eventually to erode. Besides containing sugars, many soft drinks and energy drinks are highly acidic, and can be detrimental to your oral health. The effects are particularly serious when these drinks are consumed over an extended period of time, rather than during the relatively-short duration of a meal.
Dairy products such as milks, cheeses, and yogurts have many properties that can help deter tooth decay and, over time, even strengthen your teeth. This is primarily because these foods are rich in calcium, which can be absorbed by the enamel and helps stimulate the production of neutralizing saliva. While milk does contain the sugar lactose, it is actually less efficient for acid production and contains many other tooth-nourishing minerals, such as phosphorous and casein, in addition to calcium.
We all know that water is good for our health, but did you know that it can actually be great for your teeth? This is because up to 75% of all community water supplies in the United States are fluoridated. This simply means that the majority of our water supplies are treated with the natural mineral fluoride, which helps to strengthen and remineralize decaying enamel. Drinking fluoride-treated water is perfectly safe, and can be absorbed into your saliva which, when produced, bathes your teeth in small amounts of fluoride over time.
The foods you eat can be both harmful and beneficial to your dental health, but no oral health regimen is complete without regular brushing, flossing, and dental check ups. If you are concerned that your diet may be affecting dental health, feel free to contact Dr. Glover at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us to make an appointment at a time that is convenient for you.