Smart snacking choices for healthier teeth
Why are sugary treats bad for your teeth?
Sugary snacks may taste good — but they aren’t so good for your teeth or your overall health. The candies, cakes, cookies and other sugary foods that we love to eat can cause tooth decay. When we consume sugary snacks we are consuming many different kinds of sugar, including table sugar (sucrose) and corn sweeteners (fructose). Starchy snacks can also break down into sugars once they’re in your mouth.
Let’s break down how sugar attacks your teeth
Bacteria live in your mouth all the time. Some of these bacteria form a sticky material called plaque on the surface of the teeth. When you put sugar in your mouth, the bacteria in the plaque eat up the sweetness and turn it into acids. These acids are then powerful enough to dissolve the hard enamel that covers your teeth. This is how cavities get started. If you limit your intake of sugar, the bacteria can’t produce as much of the acid that eats away enamel.
How to snack smart and prevent tooth decay
Before you begin snacking ask yourself: is this snack loaded with sugar? If it is, think again and pick another item that would be better for your teeth. You also have to keep in mind that certain kinds of sweets can do more damage than others – those gooey or chewy sweets spend more time sticking to the surface of your teeth, giving your teeth a longer sugar bath. You should keep in mind when and how often you eat snacks. Are you nibbling on sugary snacks consistently throughout the day, or do you usually just have a sugary treat after dinner? The damaging acids from the plaque form in your mouth every time you eat a sugary snack. The acids continue to affect your teeth for at least 20 minutes before they are neutralized and then can’t do any more harm. So, the more frequently you eat sugary snacks during the day, the more often you feed bacteria the fuel they need to cause tooth decay.
When you’re deciding about snacks, keep in mind:
The number of times a day you eat a sugary treat How long the sugary food stays in your mouth (are you rinsing your mouth with water?) What the texture of the sugary food is (Chewy or sticky?) If you are drinking mainly water or sugary drinks through the day When we talk about a patient’s oral health, food is rated by their cariogenic potential. Cariogenic is defined as “promoting or producing the development of caries.” Cariogenic food items are the most likely to cause caries because they are high in refined carbohydrates, sugars, and starches, which promote the development of plaque and the creation of acid.
So what is our suggestion when it comes to that midday snack?
Here are some of our favorites:
Cucumber slices with hummus
Cucumbers are crunchy and a water-based vegetables – making them an ideal snack for your teeth. The addition of dipping them in hummus makes them tasty and traditional hummus is natural and typically has no added sugar.
Celery is high in fiber when raw. It is also packed with calcium, vitamin C, B6, vitamin K, potassium, protein, protein, and folate. One of celery’s most significant health benefits is its anti-inflammatory properties which can help fight conditions such as gum disease. Chewing on a celery stalk can also help clean your teeth and stimulate your gums by massaging them. When you chew on crunchy vegetables, you are doing your mouth a favor by increasing saliva production.
Cheese is another food that assists in producing saliva. The calcium in cheese, and the calcium and phosphates in milk and other dairy products, help put back minerals your teeth might have lost due to other foods. They also help rebuild tooth enamel. Similarly, non-dairy products containing calcium can also help rebuild tooth enamel.
Almonds are a good source of calcium and protein while being low in sugar. They also contain vitamin E and other healthy fats. However, be careful when eating whole almonds. They can be hard on your teeth as their hard exterior and shape stress your teeth and jaws. We suggest eating halved almonds, so they are easier on your jaw and less likely to cause cracks.