It has been common knowledge for a long time that what you eat has a dramatic impact on your overall health and well-being. This is just as true for your dental health as it is for the rest of your body. Living on a sugary, fast-food diet can increase your risk for tooth decay, and cause gum disease to progress more rapidly. Yet there is no need to embark on an extreme diet. Like anything else in life, moderation is the key to success.
Sugars and Other Carbohydrates
Sugars and other carbohydrates are present in the vast majority of foods, both healthy and unhealthy. Yet when bacteria comes into contact with sugar in the mouth, tooth enamel-damaging acids are released. These acids can stick around for as long as 20 minutes, causing damage to your teeth for the entire time.
Saliva is a natural mouthwash, cleaning out the sugar residues and minimizing these effects. Since significantly more saliva is produced during a meal than when eating a quick snack, meal-based carbohydrates tend to do less damage than sugary snacks. To help promote oral health, get your sugar fix during a meal and choose low-carb snacks such as fresh vegetables, cheese, or plain yogurt.
Although a poor diet does not appear to cause gum disease, it does make it spread more rapidly in those who are susceptible. Choosing foods that are high in calcium, protein, vitamins, and minerals can help maximize your dental health. Eat a varied diet that includes foods from each of the five major food groups, and limit those options that are devoid of nutrients. Also drink plenty of water, which prevents dehydration, thins saliva, and acts as a mouth rinse when you are unable to brush your teeth after meals.
While naturally sticky foods are not inherently more damaging than less-sticky foods, it is important not to let them get stuck to your teeth. Drink plenty of water with them, and brush your teeth as soon as possible after you finish. Sticky, sugary foods are especially likely to increase your risk of tooth decay.
Combating Damaging Choices
Of course, it is not reasonable to cut out all foods that could be damaging to your teeth. Focus on moderating your diet, eating high-sugar foods sparingly, rather than cutting them out altogether. Radical diets often lead to rebound binge eating.
When you do consume tooth-damaging foods, pay close attention to washing the residue out of your mouth. If possible, rinse your mouth with plain water for at least 30 seconds. Chewing sugarless gum is another good choice, as it stimulates saliva production and encourages your mouth to clean itself.
All mouths are not the same, and dental health is a highly personalized journey. If you have underlying physical conditions or are on certain medications, you might be at increased risk for tooth decay or gum disease. In this case, talk to your dentist. You might be prescribed a special antimicrobial mouth rinse or toothpaste to use daily or after eating certain foods.
If your teeth are crooked or misshapen, or you are missing teeth, maintaining good oral hygiene can be more challenging. You might be instructed to brush your teeth more frequently, perform regular mouth rinses with water or other products, or even avoid certain foods altogether. Cosmetic dentistry can often fix these challenges, minimizing the additional risks to your teeth.
If you have braces, certain foods are usually off-limits. This is because those foods can get stuck in your braces and are extremely difficult to remove. Make sure you follow all of your dentist’s instructions to minimize the chances of developing tooth decay underneath your braces. If you are concerned about the dietary restrictions of braces, ask your dentist whether Invisalign is an appropriate treatment for you. While you must still be cautious of damaging foods, Invisalign can be removed for routine oral care.
Family Dental Care of Bellevue provides quality dental care to patients and their families, and has been voted one of the best dental offices in Washington State. Call us today at 425-643-5778 to learn how we can help improve your smile.