Many different bacteria live in our mouth, these bacteria build up in a sticky layer called plaque. When we eat and drink, the bacteria in the plaque feed on the sugars and carbohydrates in the food and produce acid, which if not properly brushed away can destroy the tooths enamel. This is how tooth decay is caused.
Most people think that sweets and lollies are the main foods to blame for tooth decay. However bacteria does not only use the sugar in sweets to create acid, but also using any food that contains sugars and other carbohydrates. The other major cause of tooth decay is the frequency in which we eat, it takes 20 minutes for the saliva in our mouths to neutralize the acids caused from food and drinks, constant snacking throughout the day doesn’t allow this process, we should try and stick to eating no more than 5 times a day.
Especially harmful, can be foods like dried fruit and peanut butter that stick to teeth, providing a constant source of energy for bacteria. Acidic drinks include all fizzy drinks (including ‘diet’ drinks and carbonated mineral water), all cordials and fruit juices. It’s not practical to cut out these foods completely but it’s good to know the basic facts about teeth-friendly eating and have a plan to control any potential damage they might do.
Teeth friendly diet tips:
- Drink tap water rather than bottled or filtered water, as it usually contains fluoride at a level that helps to protect against tooth decay
- Offer children milk or water – the only recommended drinks for children. Avoid flavoured milks as these are very high in sugar
- Avoid drinking sugary drinks such as soft drinks, sports drinks, fruit juices and cordials, or consume these along with your meal and then rinse with water afterwards, this will help to wash away the sugars
- Drink through a straw when drinking sugary drinks
- Avoid eating to many sugary snacks in between meals, instead swap these for healthy options such as fresh fruit, vegetable sticks, cheese, yoghurt, nuts
- Eat a small amount of hard cheese after meals to help protect teeth from dental decay
- Chew sugar free gum in between meals
Tips to maintain healthy teeth:
- Limit your snacking in between meals, try and stick to eating no more than 5 times a day
- Drink water after eating to help flush away any bacteria or food that might stick to the teeth
- Brush morning and night with a fluoride containing toothpaste and floss once a day
- Visit your dentist for a check-up and clean twice a year