Ever heard the saying, “you are what you eat?” That’s not just a saying, as what you eat really can determine how you feel, how you look and even how long you live. What you eat can directly affect how healthy your teeth and gums are, as foods and drinks come in direct contact with your mouth. Find out how your eating affects your oral health and small changes you can be making for a healthier mouth!
Did you know that cavities and gum disease are a direct result of what you eat and how you care for your teeth? Many people think that getting cavities is simply due to a lack of brushing and flossing. Those habits play a major role in oral health diseases, but so does what you eat. Why? Because sugar directly causes both tooth decay (cavities) and gum disease), and it’s found in most of the foods you eat.
Your mouth starts the digestive process. When you eat and drink, sugars will mix with mouth bacteria. Instead of going down to the stomach, some sugars will stay in your mouth. When they mix with mouth bacteria, it creates a sticky, acidic film known as plaque. That plaque sticks to your teeth and breaks up the minerals in your tooth enamel. That breakup is known as tooth decay, because the tooth dies in that area. You know this term by “cavities”.
Because plaque is acidic, it also bothers the gums, especially along the gum line where plaque rests. When brushing and flossing doesn’t happen, the gums will eventually turn darker red, and will become swollen and inflamed. They will also pull back, which can happen so badly that the teeth fall out. Yikes! That’s why you want to 1) watch what you eat, 2) brush and floss your teeth and visit the dentist, and 3) choose foods that will help your teeth and gums.
Any type of food with sugars in it can harm your teeth, especially ones that are mostly sugar. We’re talking cookies, cakes, brownies, candy bars and more. The worst types of treats for your teeth are choices like suckers, mints or things you suck on for long periods of time. That basically bathes your teeth in sugar. We can help provide you with dental sealants so you have a plastic coating for your teeth, but these are generally for children and teens. Choosing to forgo sugar is the best option you have to avoid tooth decay and gum disease.
You can also choose healthy food and drink options that will help your teeth. Water is a great drink to have, as many public water sources have fluoride in it. Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that helps strengthen the teeth. Milk and dairy products are also great, because they contain calcium, phosphate, magnesium and other minerals that your teeth are made of. These food choices can help remineralize your teeth when other foods strip those minerals away. Veggies and fruits are not only good for your health, but the vitamins they contain can help keep your teeth and soft tissues healthy. Making good choices with fruits, veggies, proteins, dairy and other natural choices can help you to have healthy teeth.
Just gotta have that coffee in the morning? How about that energy drink or your nighttime glass of wine? All of these drinks will do different things to your teeth. Some will stain your teeth, while others will erode the tooth enamel. The latter happens when you drink anything that has either sugar or acids in it. As we mentioned, sugar leads to the production of plaque, which will directly decay your teeth if you don’t brush and floss. However, you may have a sugar-free drink (or drink flavoring) that is still harming your teeth.
Check your drink labels for citric acid and carbonic acid. Citric acid is a preservative that also helps give fruity drinks that tart taste. Carbonic acid is the acid that is in carbonated drinks. It’s what helps make the fizzy bubbles that consumers love. When either of those acids come in contact with your teeth, they start to break up your teeth minerals. In fact, you shouldn’t even brush your teeth for about 30 minutes after drinking sugary or acidic drinks, as it can take even more minerals off of your tooth enamel. This can lead to tooth erosion quickly and thinning teeth over time.
Coffee and teas will contain substances called “tannins” in them. These will stain your teeth by getting into the microscopic cracks between minerals. It’s one of the reasons coffee (or any drink with red, blue, purple and other dyes) will immediately dye the color of your teeth. When you brush, your teeth may still seem darker, and it’s because of those dyes. Over time, your teeth will stay a darker yellow or gray color due to the dyes in your drinks. Try avoiding those drinks or drink through a straw if you just have to have them. This limits dyes and acids from coming in contact with the teeth.
Any person can have healthy, strong teeth for life if they practice the right habits. If you want whiter teeth for longer, make conscious decisions about the drinks you have. If you want to avoid cavities, choose nutrient-rich foods that are low in sugar. Make sure to follow up your eating with proper brushing and flossing, and always floss before bed. Help infants and children in the home with their brushing and flossing. To receive your dental exams and to view your options for cosmetic dentistry (teeth whitening and more), call Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies at (970) 223-8425!