Foods That Are a Treat to Eat Often Can Do Serious Damage
Your mouth is a busy place. Especially for bacteria tiny colonies of living organisms are constantly on the move on your teeth, gums, lips and tongue. Having bacteria in your mouth is a normal thing. While some of the bacteria can be harmful, most are not harmful and some are even helpful.
Bad Bacteria Basics
Certain types of bacteria, however, can attach themselves to hard surfaces like the outside covering of your teeth called enamel. Enamel is very hard, mainly because it contains durable mineral salts, like calcium. Mineral salts in your saliva help add to the hardness of your teeth. Mineral salts, however, are prone to attack by acids. Acid causes them to break down.
If bad bacteria are not removed, they multiply and grow in number until a colony forms on the tooth enamel. Eventually, the bacteria colony becomes a whitish film on the tooth called plaque. If it doesn’t get washed away by saliva or brushed away by your toothbrush, it produces acid.
Acid Produces Cavities
This acid is produced inside the plaque and can’t be easily washed away by your saliva. The acid dissolves the minerals that make your tooth enamel hard. The surface of the enamel becomes porous and tiny holes appear. After a while, the acid causes the tiny holes in the enamel to get bigger until one large hole appears. This is a cavity.
THE SEVERITY OF SUGAR
Sugar plays a harmful role in tooth decay. The bacteria that form together to become plaque use sugar as a form of energy.
They multiply faster and the plaque grows in size and thickness. Some of the bacteria turn the sugar into a kind of glue that they use to stick themselves to the tooth surface. This makes it harder for the bacteria to get washed away with your saliva.
Sugar is sugar whether it’s refined white sugar, brown sugar or honey. It’s not the amount, but how often you eat it. The acidic environment in your mouth created by sugar persists for about two hours after it’s consumed. If you eat or drink a little bit of sugar every few hours, your teeth will be continuously bathed in the acid, which directly dissolves tooth enamel.
Hard Candy. While hard candies may seem harmless, eat too many and the constant exposure to sugar damages teeth. Hard candies also put your teeth at risk because in addition to being full of sugar, they can also trigger a dental emergency such as a broken or chipped tooth. Included are:
Tasty Tip: They might soothe your symptoms, but many cough drops have as much sugar as hard candy, experts warn. And because you suck on them for several minutes, and tend to pop them all day long when you have a cold, dental damage can be hefty. Skip the drops in favor of soothing your throat with herbal tea and water, or opt for sugar-free drops if necessary.
Chewy Candy. Sticky candies get stuck between braces and teeth, allowing plaque to build up. Plus, a chewy candy in the wrong place at the wrong time can easily take a filling or a whole tooth out. Beware of:
Tasty Tip: Chew sugarless gum that carries the American Dental Association Seal.
Carbohydrates. Carb-heavy foods are processed as sugar when digested and food particles tend to linger by sticking in the grooves of teeth, creating a breeding ground for acid. The simple sugars quickly dissolve inside the mouth, causing a surge of acid that can erode tooth enamel. These include:
Tasty Tip: They might go in your mouth light as air, but the texture of potato chips (crunchy at first, then gummy post-chewing) means they tend to linger in your mouth. When chip particles get stuck between teeth, acid-producing bacteria indulge in a snacking attack that ups your risk of tooth decay. And since we tend to chomp on chips over a long period (hey, no one can eat just one), that means a non-stop period of acid production. If you choose to indulge in snacks like these, take extra care when you floss that day to remove all the food particles that can lead to plaque build-up.
Citrus. Citrus fruits are great sources of vitamin C for healthy gums, but they’re also high in enamel-damaging acid. Because of the acidity it adds, even putting lemon slices in water can be a danger. Look out for:
Tasty Tip: Continue to eat fruit for the vitamin content, but enjoy these foods in moderation to minimize their impact on your teeth. Also, drink a glass of water when you consume fruit it will wash away the acid as you enjoy your snack.
Sugary Drinks. Be especially cautious of drinking them over a lengthy period of time, which promotes prolonged exposure to sugar and acid. Even something as innocent as lemonade is a destructive combination of acid and sugar that leads to tooth decay and cavities. These include:
Tasty Tip: Sports drinks sound healthy, don’t they? But for many sports and energy drinks, sugar is a top ingredient. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, while sports drinks can be helpful for young athletes engaged in prolonged, vigorous physical activities, in most cases they are unnecessary. Before your next sip, check the label to make sure your drink of choice is low in sugar. Not sure? Drink water instead.
Fortunately, foods like candy and soda that don’t always play nice with our teeth are generally harmless in moderation. It’s important to see your dentist before a cavity forms so that the plaque you can’t reach with your toothbrush or floss can be removed.
SOURCES: Healthyteeth.org, besthealthmag.ca, prevention.com