At Advanced Family Dental, our goal is to help each patient enjoy the best oral health possible. That’s why Lakewood, Colorado dentists Drs. Matheson and Skinner work to educate patients on the best oral care practices so they can prevent decay and the onset of gum disease. One of the first things a patient should understand is how diet can impact their oral health.
Two of the most important factors when it comes to protecting the health of your teeth and gums is what and how often do you eat. Almost immediately after eating, certain changes begin to occur in your mouth as the sticky bacteria known as plaque begins to convert the sugars in your mouth into harmful acids that erode away at tooth enamel. Over time, these acids can wear small grooves into your teeth where bacteria can begin to accumulate, starting the process of tooth decay. The more frequently you snack or eat throughout the day, the more often you expose your teeth to this cycle of decay.
Food and Drinks for a Healthy Mouth
When selecting a diet that helps to protect your oral health, you need to look for foods that don’t heavily contribute to the production of plaque acids, while also helping to repair your teeth. Some of the best choices for foods that help protect the health of the mouth include chicken and other lean meats, milk, nuts, and cheese. Research suggests these types of foods help protect tooth enamel by providing the body with needed phosphorus and calcium. These minerals help repair damage done by harmful plaque acids through a process known as remineralization.
Other teeth healthy food choices include fruits and vegetables that possess a firm or crunchy texture. Due to the high water content these types of food possess, they help to dilute the effects of the sugars they contain by simulating saliva flow. Saliva acts as the body’s natural neutralizing agent against plaque acids, and washes away lingering food particles from the mouth. Because your body produces higher amounts of saliva when you eat larger meals, you should try to avoid eating highly acidic foods, such as tomatoes and citrus fruits, as snacks to reduce the effects caused by the acids they produce.
Just as there are quality food choices for your teeth, you can also indulge in a diet that contains too many foods that damage tooth enamel. Breads, muffins, cakes, cookies, pies, pretzels, potato chips, french fries, dried fruits, and bananas all qualify as types of foods that can harm your oral health. These types of foods either stick to your teeth after eating or contain high levels of sugar, both of which provide bacteria plenty of fuel. Foods like dried fruit that stick to teeth, for example, can provide plaque a constant source of fuel to produce acids with until you brush the fruit away. If you eat dried raisins at lunch, but don’t brush until bedtime, you leave your teeth susceptible to hours of damage from plaque acids.
When it comes to selecting what to drink, by far your best options are a glass of water, milk, or unsweetened teas. Water and tea can help to wash away lingering food particles and neutralize harmful plaque acids, while milk provides your body with calcium so it can begin remineralization.
It’s important that you limit your consumption of sugary sodas and fruits juices, especially if carbonated. Many dentists consider that damage done to tooth enamel by carbonated sodas as worse than battery acid. Sipping these types of beverages throughout the day constantly exposes your teeth to sugar and decay causing acids.
Oral Health Care Tips
While your diet can make a significant difference, you still need to practice quality oral hygiene habits in order to protect the health of your teeth and gums. For the best oral health you need to:
- Brush for at least two minutes at a time, at least twice a day. Even though the American Dental Association recommends that people brush for two minutes, studies have shown that people average approximately 30 seconds each time they brush. By spending two minutes brushing, you help to ensure that every area of your mouth receives the attention it needs.
- Floss daily. Even if you never get food stuck between your teeth, flossing still removes plaque deposits that accumulate in places your brush cannot reach. The most common place that cavities develop is between teeth.
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash. Plaque thrives in all places within the mouth, even areas you don’t brush. Using an antibacterial mouthwash will help to eliminate plaque throughout in the mouth.
- Visit Drs. Matheson and Skinner regularly. Scheduling regular appointments with Drs. Matheson and Skinner allows them to remove built up plaque, while also checking for early signs of gum disease and tooth decay.