When it comes to keeping your teeth and gums healthy, you may already brush twice a day, floss daily, and come in to see Dr. Kerri M. Hill at The Art of Dental Wellness for your regular cleanings and checkups. But what you eat also matters. Certain types of foods increase the bad bacteria in your mouth, affecting the health of your teeth and gums, which may lead to the formation of cavities and the buildup of plaque.
When it comes to foods you should limit for healthier teeth and gums, sugary foods may not come as too much of a surprise. But you may not know why sugar is bad.
Your mouth is filled with bacteria — some good, some bad. The bad bacteria loves to feed on sugar. Unfortunately, the acidic byproduct created by the bad bacteria eats away at the enamel on your teeth, causing cavities. The bacteria also increases plaque production, which may form into tartar and increase your risk of gum disease.
For good oral health, we recommend you limit sugary foods, such as:
- Juices and soda
- Cakes and cookies
- Hard candy, lollipops, and other sweet candies
- Sugary gum
It’s especially important to be careful when consuming sugary foods that linger, like lollipops or hard candy. The longer these sweets stay in your mouth, the greater the risk to your teeth and gums.
What we mean by sticky foods are the ones that get stuck on your teeth after you finished chewing and require manual removal, either with your finger or a toothbrush. Just like lollipops and hard candy, sticky foods linger and increase bacterial action and acid production.
Sticky foods that may wreak havoc on your teeth and gums include:
- Dried fruits, such as raisins and apricots
- Potato chips, pretzels, and crackers
- Caramels and jelly candies
Like the sugary foods, the caramels and dried fruit are a source of sugar, but you may wonder why bread, chips, and pretzels are so bad. They’re refined carbs, and the enzymes in your mouth get a head start on digestion by starting to break these carbs down into sugar. That makes them just as detrimental to your teeth as the sugary foods. On top of that, these carb-laden foods tend to hang around in the crevices of your molars until the next time you brush.
If you like soda, you may opt to switch over to the sugar-free versions to improve oral health. But as it turns out, these may not be any better for you. It’s not the sugar in these drinks that wreak havoc on your teeth and gums, but the acidic ingredients, such as phosphoric and citric acid, which eat away at your enamel much like the acidic byproduct of the bad bacteria.
After a hard day at work, you may like to unwind with a nice cocktail. But alcohol and oral health don’t go hand in hand. Your drink may not taste sweet, but it may be a source of sugar, which can up the production of bad bacteria. Some alcoholic beverages are also acidic, which may affect the enamel on your teeth and increase risk of cavities.
And that cottonmouth you get after a night of indulgence is due to a decrease in saliva production. That dry mouth isn’t good, because saliva is your mouth’s natural way of sweeping the bacteria off your teeth.
Tips to improve oral health
Does that mean soda, sweets, and chips are out? Not necessarily. It’s all about balance and taking good care of your teeth between meals and snacks.
To improve oral health and reduce your exposure, we recommend:
- Brushing after every meal and snack or chewing sugar-free gum
- Drink sugary drinks with a meal or all at once instead of sipping over long periods
- Allow two hours in between meals and snacks
- Drinking water after you eat also helps clear the sugar and bacteria from your teeth.
If you have concerns about the health of your teeth and gums, we can help. Dr. Hill has nearly 20 years of experience helping her patients improve their oral health for healthier, brighter smiles. Contact our office to schedule an appointment today.