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How Food Affects Our Dental Health

Did you know that eating high-acid foods, as well as foods containing fermentable carbohydrates, work with bacteria to form acids that can destroy teeth? This includes sugary foods (cookies, cakes, soft drinks, candy), some fruits, juices, and hidden sources of sugar such as bread, crackers, bananas and breakfast cereals. If these foods are eaten throughout the day they can harm a person’s teeth if no effort is made to counteract the effects. To prevent dental disease, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends these preventative dentistry measures: brushing and flossing on a daily basis; visiting a dentist twice per year for cleanings and x-rays; and having restorative procedures done as needed. Dentistry of Johns Creek, a family dentistry provider, offers a full range of services designed to maximize dental health at all ages.

To Decay or Not to Decay!

Our tooth enamel is the first line of defense against decay. Once the enamel becomes weakened or eroded a myriad of oral problems can occur including tooth sensitivity, gum disease, cavities, bad breath, and eventually teeth can loosen and fall out. Simple changes to dietary habits and dental hygiene can prevent these problems and provide long term dental health. Here are a few tips on how to help keep the amount of acid created by the bacteria on your teeth to a minimum.

Limit Between-Meal Snacking. Fewer snacks mean less acid exposure for your teeth. If you snack, choose foods that are not fermentable carbohydrates, like cheese, meats, or nuts that neutralize acids or provide calcium and phosphorus needed to put minerals back in the teeth. Firm fruits such as apples and pears and vegetables are also a good choice. Worst pick? Of course the stuff we love to munch – any processed food containing processed sugars and fermentable carbohydrates.

Limit How Often You Eat. If you want to prevent cavities, how often you eat can be just as important as what you eat. That’s because food affects your teeth and mouth long after you swallow. The longer food stays in contact with bacteria on the tooth, the more acids will be produced.

Limit Drinks Containing Sugar. If you do indulge, avoid sipping them throughout the day. Try to choose unsweetened beverages and water, especially fluoridated water. Sugarless carbonated drinks, while omitting the sugar, do have the capability to erode enamel with their acid, so brush after a half hour or follow with water.

No Sucking Hard Candies or Mints. Choose the sugarless varieties.

Limit Very Acidic Foods. Added acids may contribute to a loss of minerals in the teeth, which is cumulative.

Brush Teeth. Remove plaque bacteria after eating and after drinking sugary drinks. Wait ½ hour, however, after consuming very acidic foods.

Foods That Are Good for Your Teeth

There are foods that have been found to help strengthen tooth enamel, increase saliva production, neutralize acids, and said in a process called remineralization. Some foods actually help to protect teeth from decay. Foods high in calcium, in conjunction with foods rich in vitamin D to aid in calcium absorption, are recommended. Try these healthy teeth promoting food choices:

Calcium. Low-fat or fat-free dairy products such as milk, cheese, and plain yogurt are calcium staples that don’t add unhealthy saturated fat to your diet. Hard cheese in particular also helps neutralize the acids found in foods that threaten tooth enamel. Other good sources of calcium are green leafy vegetables like kale, bok choy, and even Brussels sprouts, which deliver a healthy boost of vitamin C, too.

Vitamin D. Egg yolks, mushrooms, and most fish are excellent sources of the vitamin D you need to absorb calcium, which builds and maintains healthy teeth.

Vitamin C. Red peppers and sweet potatoes can provide the vitamin C necessary for healthy gums, which help keep your teeth firmly in place. Citrus fruits like oranges are also high in vitamin C, but you have to be careful of their acidity.

It’s all in the Crunch. The crisp texture of crunchy fruits and vegetables can help wipe away plaque-causing bacteria on your teeth. They can also increase the production of saliva, which helps neutralize bacteria in your mouth. Apples, pears, celery, and carrots are all good choices. However, even a healthy food like an apple can expose teeth to damaging acid when eaten slowly. To reduce the impact of acid, brush your teeth before eating and drink water or rinse immediately after.

Xylitol. Chewing sugarless gum containing this ingredient. The gum helps dislodge some of the food stuck to your teeth, and also increases saliva flow to help neutralize the acids

Correcting Dental Problems

Fortunately, today’s dental technology allows us to correct past damage with cosmetic and restorative dentistry (bonding, veneers, whitening, crowns, bridges, etc.). This means that anyone who has compromised dental health due to disease or neglect can greatly improve the appearance of their teeth and have a beautiful smile. Individuals who still have the old silver mercury fillings (amalgams) should consider replacing them with white composite fillings due to concerns with mercury poisoning due to long term exposure. Dr. Robert Shackelford at Dentistry of Johns Creek can examine your teeth and create a treatment plan to bring your teeth back to their former glory! Visit our website or call (770) 442-8472 to make an appointment today.

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