Your Diet And Your Teeth
April 21, 2022
Category: Uncategorized
Tags: Untagged

This time of year brings many changes to our diets. Sometimes, in all the outdoor activities, we don’t take time to eat properly. Some party set-ups encourage grazing rather than a regular meal. Alcoholic beverages and other goodies may be more abundant. How are your teeth affected by these changes? Let’s look at some of the ways.


Sugary and starchy foods cause your oral bacteria to produce acids. These acids are what eat away at your tooth enamel to cause cavities (tooth decay).  Sticky plaque holds the bacteria and acids against your teeth and may increase your chances of tooth decay.


As a general rule, oral bacteria produce acid for about 20 minutes after each exposure to sugar or starch. The example we used in dental school was that if you ate a whole roll of lifesavers at once you would get 20 minutes of acid on your teeth. If you ate each one individually, you would get 20 minutes for each lifesaver! Similarly, if you eat a meal all at once your teeth will be exposed to less acid than if you graze on appetizers throughout the party.


Acidic foods and drinks erode your tooth enamel more quickly. The acid in them combines with the acids normally produced after eating so acid exposure lasts longer than the usual 20 minutes. Acidic drinks include wine, coffee, tea, soda and sports drinks. Examples of acidic foods are tomato based products and citrus fruits.


Remember too that items like cough drops, hard candies, and breath mints stay in your mouth for a longer period of time and may allow more time for acids to be in contact with your teeth. Sugar-free choices are better for your oral health.


Young children who fall asleep drinking a bottle or sippy cup that contains milk, juice, formula or other sweetened drinks are at risk for “baby bottle tooth decay.” The liquid pools around their front teeth as they sleep and the acids produced attack the baby teeth.  The result is large, unsightly cavities on all their front teeth. Many times these children are too young to sit for simple dental work let alone the extensive treatment that’s needed for baby bottle tooth decay, so the fillings, other restorative work or tooth removals need to be done under sedation at a pediatric dentist’s office, a surgery center, or a hospital.


If you must put your child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup, fill it with water only.  Remember that many bottled waters do not contain fluoride.


So what can you do to minimize your risk? First of all, try to limit snacking. The fewer times there’s something in your mouth, the less time acid is in contact with your teeth.


Brush your teeth at least twice a day, once in the morning after breakfast and once at night after you’re done eating for the day. Whenever possible, brush your teeth after eating. The toothpaste helps buffer the oral acids and return your mouth to its resting state more quickly, and the fluoride in your toothpaste can help remineralize early tooth erosion. The mechanical action of brushing removes some of the sticky plaque that traps bacteria and acids against your teeth. If you can’t brush, rinse with plain water (you can spit or swallow), chew sugar free gum, or eat cheese to help decrease the acids in your mouth.


Floss at least once a day to remove any material that has collected in between your teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach.  You may also want to use a home fluoride rinse or gel in addition to the fluoride found in your toothpaste. If you don't like traditional flossing, invest in a Waterpik or other device that has water flossing capabilities--it's not the same as traditional flossing, but it's better than not flossing at all!


Cavities and tooth decay do not have symptoms in their early stages. You won’t have discomfort, pain or swelling until the problem is quite far along. Often not until the point where you’ll have to make the decision on whether to put a lot of money into your tooth in order to keep it or lose your tooth and compromise your dental condition.


Scheduling regular dental visits will allow your dentist to check your teeth for early signs of these problems. If the decay is caught at an early stage, a filling is often all you’ll need. Wait until it hurts, and you’re likely looking at a root canal, core procedure, and a crown or cap for the tooth at ten times the cost!


If you have children or grandchildren who haven’t been to the dentist in a while, consider giving them the gift of good oral health by paying for a dental check up and cleaning appointment.


If you have any questions about your dental health, please call my office at 440-960-1940.  You can also ask questions via the contact form on my website at 

*Note: the information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals.