There are two major things that people need to know about mouths, how to prevent tooth decay and when to keep it shut. Since I seem to have more control over the former, I will start there. Years ago, during a painful procedure that we like to call a dentist appointment, I was stretched tugged and drilled with metal objects. Prognosis: I needed a root canal and crown and get this, it would cost me $2000.00 !! Everyone has a racket. I then decided that I would do my best to never experience that again.
Tooth caries and periodontal disease (gum disease) are two of the most common diseases in the world and could both be prevent with good oral health and nutrition. When dietary sucrose (sugar) is present in your mouth it produces glucans that causes PLAQUE to form on the gum line of teeth. Bacteria adhere to this plaque and tooth decay begins. In addition to sugar, certain “fermentable carbohydrates” which produce acids in the mouth that can also impact oral health. The good news is that there are some foods that actually help protect teeth from decay by increasing saliva flow, preventing the adherence of sugar to teeth and neutralizing acid levels in the mouth.
Here are some proven tips to reduce your trips to the sadist, I mean dentist:
LIMIT SUGAR-in general the less sugar that passes your lips the less glucans are formed. Also the amount of time sugar is kept in your mouth is also important. For example sucking on hard candy will be in your mouth for longer than food you would just swallow.
AVOID STICKY FOODS– dried fruits like raisins and candy like caramels stay on the teeth longer and therefore have more time to cause decay.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING– eating sugar throughout the day is more harmful then eating the same amount of sugar in one sitting. The reason is that it usually takes two to four hours for acid levels to return to normal in the mouth.
EAT SUGARY SNACKS WITH MEALS– most proteins and good fats naturally protect teeth against the harmful effects of sugar. Have your treat as desert rather than alone during the day as a snack.
SAY CHEESE– cheddar cheese in particular can actually help prevent cavities. It is an anticariogenic that can be described as one that does not cause the acidity of the saliva to rise to the point where tooth decay can occur. Also try Brie, Gouda mozzarella, Monterey Jack and Swiss cheese.
SUGAR FREE GUM –and breath mints that contain XYLITOL, helps increase the flow of saliva which in turn limits the bad acid.
TEA TIME– the tannins in tea have shown to be a good way to keep your mouth healthy. And did you know that tea can contain fluoride, which strengthens bone and actually incorporated into the tooth enamel
KEFIR- (you knew it was going to make an appearance) and YOGURT, has been shown in a recent study to help prevent gum disease. Foods containing lactic acid, reduces the bacteria that would adhere to the gums.
DRINK WITH A STRAW– all sugary juices or drinks will bypass you teeth much more than if drinking plainly with a glass. Also try limiting beverages with added sugar, in general, too reduce the damage to your teeth. Frequent slow sipping of a drink can allow acids to remain at their peak. Try sugar –free powdered flavors that you can add to water.
VITAMINS– diets low in calcium, Vitamin C, A and B, have been linked to periodontal disease. The most effective source of the vitamins are through food, use vitamins as a supplement to a vegetable and fruit filled diet.
Include in your arsenal of prevention, brushing twice a day (just don’t do it in public bathrooms, its gross) and use an antiseptic mouthwash, and see that freakin’ dentist once a year just in case. KEEP SMILING.
Fiorella DiCarlo RD, RDN, CDN