How does my diet affect my teeth?
Every time you eat or drink something containing sugar, your teeth decay for approximately 45 minutes, they are under acid attack for up to one hour. This is because the sugar will react with the bacteria in plaque (the sticky coating on your teeth) and produce harmful acids that attack the teeth and destroy the enamel. After this happens many times, the tooth enamel may break down forming a hole or ‘cavity' into the dentine which is called decay.
So it is important to cut down on how often you have sugary foods, which will limit the amount of time your teeth are at risk as it is not the amount of sugar you eat or drink, but how often you eat it. The frequency and amount of sugary foods and drinks should be reduced and restricted to mealtimes.
Let's also think about what foods contain sugar. It is not only sweets we should be looking out for - hidden sugars in our diet, such as in cakes, biscuits, baked beans, tomato ketchup and so on, heavily contribute to dental problems as well as increasing our calorie intake.
Children do not naturally have a sweet tooth and very often only develop this when they are offered sweets as rewards by parents and grandparents.
Trying to offer other rewards can reap benefits for both dental and general health of the child.
Most sugars in the diet are in processed foods and drinks:
- Sugar & chocolate confectionary
- Cakes, biscuits, buns, fruit pies, pastries
- Puddings, fruit yoghurts, ice cream
- Table sugar
- sugared breakfast cereals
- Fruit in syrup
- Fresh fruit juice and smoothies
- Any fizzy drinks
- sugared milk drinks, milkshakes, cocoa
- sugar containing alcoholic drinks
- Dried fruits e.g. raisins, apricots
- Syrups and sauces
- Hidden sugar:Watch out for hidden sugars found in foods for example: ketchup, mayonnaise, flavoured crisps, baked beans. Look at the ingredients list on foods, anything ending in -OSE means sugar. E.g. maltose, glucose, sucrose, fructose etc. Particularly watch out for sugar in antacid tablets, cough/throat sweets, breath mints and any sweets that dissolve slowly in the mouth. These can be particularly damaging.
Fizzy drinks, fruit squashes (including those that say ‘no added sugar’), fruit juice and smoothies will all cause decay and acid erosion. Try to only have these drinks at a meal. Drink tap water or tea/coffee without sugar in between meals.
Fresh fruit should be eaten at meal times ideally. Some fruits such as bananas cause a lot of decay and citrus fruits can cause decay and acid erosion of the teeth, yet it is important to eat 5 portions of fruit or vegetables every day.
Too much sugar is also bad for your general health as well as your teeth. Too much sugar can lead to obesity, diabetes and some cancers.
Acidic foods and drinks can be just as harmful to your teeth. The acid wears away the enamel, and will leave the dentine uncovered. This is called ‘dental erosion', and makes your teeth sensitive and less attractive. A diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and fresh fruit and vegetables can help to prevent gum disease. Gum disease can lead to tooth loss and cause bad breath.
- Don’t snack in between meals.
- If you have to snack the best foods are savoury such as: raw carrots, cucumber, celery, peppers, chunk of cheese, plain cheese biscuit such as oat cakes, bread sticks, rice cakes, plain crisps, crumpets, pitta bread.
- Drink plain tap water or tea/coffee without sugar in between meals.
- Don’t eat sugary foods within an hour of bedtime.
- Chewing sugar free gum after eating may help to increase the salivary flow which helps the teeth to repair themselves.
At Caspian Dental Clinic, we have a preventive approach. Should you wish to discuss your diet or your dental health with us, call us on 01923254979 or book an appointment online.
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