It is very interesting that it is not what you eat but rather how often you eat, that affects the dental health and dental oral hygiene of your teeth. Food can affect your oral hygiene long after you have swallowed for example eating sweets or chocolate has a less adverse effect to your teeth than if you were to eat the sweets as a separate snack.
What happens when we eat?
As soon as we eat, bacteria starts to build up and creates acids in our mouth and it is these acids that start the process that can lead to dental cavities if oral hygiene is not maintained.
Most foods do not breakdown in the mouth but wait until they move further along the digestive system. However, carbohydrate foods breakdown into simple sugars such as glucose, fructose and lactose in the mouth. This is what can most often lead to dental decay.
Understanding Fermentable Carbohydrates
Fermentable carbohydrates include sugary and junk foods. The bacteria from these foods initiate the decay process. There are certain bacteria presently on your teeth that feed off the sugars from these foods and produce acids. These acids then breakdown the minerals within the tooth enamel, otherwise known as demineralization.
In response, teeth are also able to reverse the demineralisation process and regain minerals. This natural process is called remineralisation. Saliva helps the process of remineralisation and enables minerals to build back up in teeth. So do fluoride and some foods.
When does dental decay occur?
Dental decay and gum disease occur when the process of demineralisation occurs faster than remineralisation.
The longer the sugary foods stay on the teeth allowing the bacteria to build up the acids, the higher the chance for dental decay. Drinking soft drinks throughout the day or sweetened coffee or sweet and starchy snacks are all a recipe for dental decay.
How to Retain Healthy Teeth
Do not be disillusioned! There are many healthy foods that actually work to prevent teeth decay and improve oral hygiene. These are foods that increase saliva flow and neutralise the acids produced by the bacteria. For example, if you eat aged cheese immediately after sugary foods, the cheese will work to shield and safeguard the acid build up.
Most important the steps to take to avoid acid build up and maintain healthy oral hygiene are as follows:
- Drink water. After meals and particularly after unhealthy snacks.
- Floss Daily. My favourite expression is ‘To Only Floss The Teeth You Want To Keep.’
- Visit me! A dentist, every 6 months for a fluoride clean and dental check up.