You know that eating a well-balanced diet is important for keeping your body healthy, but did you know that it’s also important for your teeth? Choosing a variety of nutritious foods and limiting intake of sugary foods can help keep your teeth and mouth healthy. Eating too many sugary snacks can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease. Keep reading to learn more about how what you eat impacts oral health.
How Tooth Decay Occurs
Bacteria live in your mouth and feed on the sugars in food. When you eat sugary foods, the bacteria goggle up the sugar and change it into acids. The acids are strong enough to dissolve the protective enamel on your teeth. Loss of enamel can lead to cavities. You may experience pain if the enamel is worn away enough to expose the sensitive inner layers of the teeth. After consuming a sugary treat, the acids produced can attack your teeth for twenty minutes. Eating sugary snacks and drinks frequently during the day exposes your teeth to acid attacks over and over. Acidic foods and beverages make the problem worse because the acids in the food or beverage attack tooth enamel along with the acid produced by bacteria.
Protect Against Tooth Decay by Snacking with Care
Preventing enamel loss is an important part of oral health. Choose foods and snacks carefully to protect your teeth from the damage of acid attacks. Look for nutritious snacks and limit sugary snacks to give the bacteria less opportunity to produce acids. Some kinds of sweets are harder on your teeth than others. Sticky, chewy, or gooey foods stay on your teeth longer, increasing the potential for damage. Choose drinks that are low in acid, like water or milk, and save high acidity drinks for a rare treat. Soft drinks, diet soft drinks, and sports energy drinks are high in acid. Drinking acidic beverages with a straw helps limit how much your teeth are exposed to the sugar and acid in the drink.
Consider how often you snack throughout the day too. Nibbling sugary snacks frequently is harder on your teeth than having dessert after dinner. Every time you eat a sugary snack, even just a little at a time, the bacteria produce damaging acids in your mouth. The more frequently you eat sweets, the more opportunity there is for tooth decay to occur. If you eat sugary foods, it’s best to do so after a meal instead of multiple times between meals. Avoid slowly nibbling or sipping sugary or acidic foods over a long period. Brushing your teeth after eating helps clean out the sugar and acid left from foods and beverages, reducing the possibility of tooth decay. Don’t drink sugary or acidic beverages before going to bed; the liquid can coat your teeth with sugar and acid that can attack the enamel while you sleep.
Choosing Snacks for Oral Health
When choosing snacks, consider the following:
- How many times per day you eat snacks
- How long sugary foods stay in your mouth
- The texture of sugary foods
Look for snacks low in sugar and fat. You can help protect your enamel by eating the right foods. Keep in mind these basic principles:
- Avoid sugary foods between meals
- Pick sweets less often
- Eat a variety of low-fat foods
- Brush your teeth 30 min after eating
Healthy Food Choices
Although not all of these foods have been tested, current knowledge suggests they less likely to promote tooth decay. Choosing low-sugar, low-fat options from the basic food groups can reduce the damage to your teeth caused by acids. The following foods are great choices:
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
- Unsweetened juice
- Plain bagels
- Unsweetened cereal
- Baked tortilla chips
- Plain popcorn
- Low-salt pretzels
- Plain crackers
Low or Non-Fat Dairy Products
- Cottage cheese
Meat, Nuts, and Seeds
- Sliced meat
- Pumpkin or sunflower seeds
Choosing the right foods is not only good for your body and overall health, it’s also good for your teeth. Limiting sugary snacks and brushing your teeth after eating can reduce the ability of bacteria to produce harmful acids. Keep your teeth and mouth healthy by considering what you eat as part of your oral care routine.
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