Protecting Your Teeth from Decay
The fact is that most foods can cause tooth decay, if you don’t take good care of your teeth. However, there are certain foods that present a greater risk of tooth decay than others, because they help make your mouth more hospitable to the bacteria that cause the decay.
For example, sugary carbonated beverages can contribute to tooth decay in two ways:
· First, the sugar in the beverages sticks to the teeth, and the bacteria in your mouth feeds on the sugar.
· Second, the carbonation in those beverages can wear away at the enamel that protects your teeth.
Even foods that are considered healthy can contribute to tooth decay by breaking down the enamel. For example, fruits contain several vitamins and minerals, but they also contain acids that can break down the enamel and make your teeth more prone to decay.
Considering the number of things that can damage your teeth, it’s a wonder that we can eat anything at all.
Before you swear off food entirely, here are some things that you should understand:
· First, your teeth are designed to withstand a lot of wear and tear. Although there are several foods and beverages that can take their toll, the enamel on your teeth is actually very sturdy and can withstand a lot of “abuse.”
· Second, good dental hygiene goes a long way toward preserving your teeth, and preventing decay, no matter what you eat.
Ultimately, it’s not so much what you eat, but how often, and how well you take care of your teeth that contribute in part to the rate of decay. Genetics are another factor, in that some people naturally have softer or thinner tooth enamel than others. However, with a few lifestyle fixes, you can dramatically reduce your risk of tooth decay and keep your teeth as healthy as possible.
*photo credit WaldorfSmiles.com
Lifestyle Fixes for Healthy Teeth
· Reduce your sugar intake. Sugar isn’t the only culprit in tooth decay, but it is a big one, especially if you consume items that sit in your mouth for a long time, such as gum or hard candy. If you chew a lot of gum or eat hard candy, switch to a sugarless formula that will give you the flavor and sweetness that you crave, without all the cavity-causing sugar.
· Reduce your carbonated beverage intake. Switching to diet soft drinks will reduce your sugar intake, but the carbonation can still do a number on your teeth. Rather than drink a diet soda, consider water or still beverages.
· Reduce your starch intake. Starchy foods like crackers turn into a paste that can get stuck in the microscopic cracks in your teeth, like cement. Over time, bacteria will feed on that residue, making the cracks in your enamel worse, creating a vicious cycle of tooth decay.
· Increase your cheese intake. Cheese not only contains calcium, but it can also help repair small cracks in your tooth enamel, making your teeth stronger. Cheese is actually one of the few foods that can help prevent tooth decay. Other tooth-protecting foods include peanuts, cashews, and even black licorice and chocolate!
· Brush and floss at least twice a day. Brushing removes residue from the surface of your teeth, while floss gets between teeth and below the gum line. For added protection, you can also rinse between meals to help remove post-meal residue from your teeth.
· Go to the dentist once every six months. Getting regular dental checkups helps you and your dentist stay on top of potential problems. If you are someone for whom going to the dentist is a traumatic experience, you might want to consider a sedation dentist. Sedation dentists actually use mild sedatives to help patients relax during routine dental exams and cleanings. The sedatives are safe, and help reduce anxiety for a lot of patients.
What to do if you get a cavity.
You should visit your dentist as soon as possible, if you suspect that you have a cavity. The sooner you address the issue, the sooner your dentist can fix it. If you wait too long, the cavity will continue to grow and the damage could extend into the roots of your teeth.
Once you have treated the cavity, you can follow the steps above as well as your dentist’s advice for preventing future cavities.