All Carbohydrates Can Impact Oral Health
Many people assume that only sugar causes cavities. Reduce or eliminate sugar from your diet, and you are safe from cavities. That’s actually not correct. You see, cavities occur as a result of tooth decay, and tooth decay occurs when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) such as breads, cereals, milk, soda, fruits, cakes, or candy are left on the teeth. So exactly how does that deliciously wonderful slice of bread that you had this morning turn into a tooth-killer cavity? It’s really a quite simple (and deadly) process that involves five steps:
- You eat something containing carbohydrates (remember, both sugar and starches fall into this category).
- Bacteria that live in the mouth digest these foods, turning them into acids.
- The bacteria, acid, food debris, and saliva combine to form plaque, which clings to the teeth.
- The acids in plaque dissolve the enamel surface of the teeth.
- Once the enamel is dissolved, holes form in the teeth and are called cavities, or caries.
However, the real issue is not the amount of sugar or starch in a particular food, but how long it tends to remain on your teeth. For example, some of the most damaging foods are those that mash into the tops of the molars at the back of the mouth and don’t dissolve quickly — like gummy candy or starchy chips and crackers. Lollipops, juice, and soda are also major offenders since they douse teeth in sugar for minutes at a time.
To reduce the impact of carbohydrates on your teeth and to head off the five-step process that leads to cavities, try these simple approaches:
- Water, water and more water. Drink water with every meal and be sure to actively swish it around your mouth at the end of the meal. This will wash away the acids that formed and help remove debris.
- Chew a piece of sugar-free gum at the end of your meal it helps produce saliva, which aids in naturally cleaning your teeth, and it also will often remove food debris from the meal.
- Avoid really sticky foods that stay on your teeth for hours.
- Brush twice a day and floss daily.
- Make sure to drink water with fluoride to strengthen your teeth this is especially important for kids.
- Give your kids calcium-rich cheese. It is a great cavity-fighting snack, since it can actually stimulate the flow of saliva (a natural tooth cleaner) and neutralize the mouth acids that wear away enamel.