The plaque on your teeth is mostly made up of bacteria, which feeds on sugar from food and drink, producing acids as a waste product. The acids then erode the teeth by dissolving the minerals on the tooth surface, causing tooth decay.
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. These include foods such as fruits, peanut butter, biscuits, crackers, potato chips, dried fruit, snack bars, muesli bars and popcorn to name a few.
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 tooth-friendly eating and have a plan to control any potential damage they might do.
How to avoid diet-related mouth problems
Most dental problems can be avoided by brushing twice a day, using fluoride toothpaste and flossing once daily to remove plaque build up.Saliva provides a strong protective film to the teeth and helps to wash away and neutralise the damaging acids. It also clears the mouth of debris. Recent research shows that cheese is one of the healthiest snacks for your teeth as it stimulates the saliva glands. Chewing sugar free gum after you’ve eaten will also do this. Other products such as tooth mousse and Fluoride mouthwashes and pastes are required when the dietary cause can not be altered.
Only eat ‘safe’ snacks and drinks between meals
If you want to snack between meals try to avoid sugary or acidic foods and drinks. Use a straw when consuming sugary drinks. Choose ‘safe’ snacks e.g. fresh fruits, vegetables, toast, nuts and cheese and wash it down with ‘safe’ drinks like milk and water (preferably fluoridated tap water).Chewing sugar-free gum after meals to stimulate saliva canhelp neutralise acids and keep your mouth free of food debris.