Many of our patients say that they eat more frequently, eat more sugary beverages, and crave unhealthy foods during COVID-19. Let’s take a look at how these new habits can impact your oral health. First, let’s talk about carbs, which are scientifically proven to make you happy but create acids when combined with oral bacteria. Acids begin to attack your teeth 20 minutes after you start eating and drinking. Each acid attack increases your risk for cavities and tooth decay. As you feed yourself sugary and starchy foods, you are also feeding the dental plaque that can cause your mouth problems and increase your chances of dental caries.
You Can Fight Tooth Decay With Good Habits
Hopefully, the dietary advice found below will help you create daily habits and routines to maintain optimum oral health and wellness.
- Avoid sticky, sugary candies that are hard to wash away. Eating a piece of dark chocolate is better than eating sweets that stick to your teeth. Your saliva does not easily remove lollipops, caramels, jelly beans, and hard candies.
- Avoid regularly eating high sugar content snacks, which are known to lead to tooth decay. Snacks like cookies, cakes, or other desserts contain a high amount of sugar. If you eat these types of foods, it’s a good idea to limit how often you eat them and try not to eat them as snacks. Consider eating cheese, yogurt, leafy greens, apples, carrots, celery, or almonds.
- Reduce your intake of starchy, refined carbohydrates such as chips, bread, pasta, or crackers. These kinds of food can be as harmful to the teeth as candy because starches made from white flour are simple carbohydrates that linger in your mouth and break down into simple sugars. Oral bacteria feast on these sugars and produce acid, which leads to tooth decay. Our best advice is to try to avoid eating them during the day and brush your teeth afterward.
- Avoid high sugar-sweetened beverages as the sugar content is not considered healthy for your teeth or overall health. According to the Harvard School of Health, you will find 7-10 teaspoons of sugar in a 12-ounces can of soda. Consider alternatives such as water, tea, coffee, and coconut water.
- Continue to eat whole fruits as they are an essential part of a healthy diet. Whole or cut-up fruits are sources of many essential nutrients, fiber and have less concentrated sugar than fruit juice. When you drink fruit juice, we recommend using a straw to reduce your teeth’ exposure to the sugar. You can also rinse with water afterward.
You Can Fight Tooth Decay With Food
Developing conscious eating habits will help you maintain healthy teeth and gums. Let’s learn more about how eating more nutritious foods will help prevent dental caries and gum disease.
- Fruits and vegetables are fiber-rich foods that stimulate saliva flow, natural protection against cavities. Saliva washes away food particles and cleans your mouth around 20 minutes after eating or drinking. Saliva also starts to neutralize the acids attacking your teeth. Best foods: crisp fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots, and celery.
- Cheese, milk, plain yogurt, and other dairy products are great for your teeth. These foods contain essential minerals for your teeth, such as calcium, phosphates, and vitamin D. Calcium is important because our teeth are made mostly of calcium. Without enough calcium in your diet, the risk of developing tooth decay increases. Calcium sticks to your teeth by mixing with dental plaque and protects your teeth from the tooth decay-causing acids. The calcium helps rebuild tooth enamel.
- Sources of calcium include milk, cheese, fortified drinks, and bread, and fish where you eat the bones such as sardines.
- Gum lovers can eat sugarless chewing gum after meals and snacks to help wash away harmful acid from your teeth to protect tooth enamel. Make sure to eat sugarless gum because chewing gum with sugars will increase your chances of developing dental caries. Sugarless gum containing xylitol has been shown to have decay-preventive qualities, and xylitol may inhibit oral bacteria’s growth, causing cavities.
- Black teas, sans sugar, promotes the well-being of your teeth and gums. Polyphenol, one of the critical components of black tea, inhibits the growth of oral bacteria. Polyphenol and other compounds found in green and black tea stifle the bacteria responsible for tooth decay and gum disease. If you decide to add sugar to your tea, make sure to rinse with water.
Diet Overview: Snacks That Won’t Harm Your Teeth
The Canadian Dental Association recommends the following great tasting snacks that won’t harm your teeth.
- Plain milk and buttermilk
- Fruit and raw vegetables
- Plain yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese
- Hard-boiled or devilled eggs
- Nuts, sunflower, or pumpkin seeds
- Melba toast
It’s essential to take the right steps every day to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Following a good diet and repeating good oral health habits will prevent problems. You will still need to book your dental cleaning and checkups twice a year as a way to make sure your good habits are paying off.
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