Sugar, Sugar! Sooo Good!! And I don’t mean the song by The Archies or Maroon 5, although both are classics. So, people with healthy mouths never eat sugar right? The answer is an emphatic no! As a dental professional, I have a sweet tooth that competes with Willy Wonka. Just ask my staff! I’m always in the staff room rummaging through the snacks looking for something with chocolate and you will often see me out to eat without a soda in front of me. I am human and I also the enjoy the simple pleasures in life.
The truth of the matter is that if you want to be healthy then stay away from your refined sugars. They not only affect your mouth but can have a negative impact on your overall health. For those of us who don’t have the will power to completely eliminate them from your diet here are few tips that can help you avoid bad dental checkups.
First of all, keep your mouth neutral. What I mean by this is that don’t let your mouth become too acidic. Sugar in combination with the bacteria in your mouth creates acid. Acid lowers the pH of your mouth. Demineralization (fancy word for breakdown of tooth structure) starts at a pH of 5.5 . Anything below this is not a friendly environment for your teeth. If your mouth is kept in this acidic state for long time without a period of recovery then your teeth will start to breakdown and demineralize. This can happen by sipping or snacking on sugary things all day long and not allowing your saliva to re-neutralize your mouth. Your saliva, is one of your best defenses against cavities. It breaks down and washes the food away and its pH varies slightly from patient to patient but usually hovers around 7 making it the perfect defense mechanism. If you notice that you have dry mouth all the time then consult with your dentist. If you are going to eat sugary things then eat/drink them quickly. Think low frequency. Let your mouth recover. You can help this along by rinsing with water after the consumption of sugary snacks/drinks. Snacking or grazing on sugary things will catch up to you eventually.
Secondly, good oral hygiene always helps too. I know you have heard it before but brushing and flossing is required to achieve a healthy oral environment. A minimum of twice a day is the recommendation. Make sure that before you go to bed at night your teeth are as clean as possible. Brush, floss, Waterpik! Whatever it takes but don’t go to bed with dirty teeth. Consult with your dentist/hygienist on technique. Show them how you brush and floss and get their feedback. It’s not as simple as you might think.
Lastly, I know fluoride can sometimes get a bad rap but studies show it works wonders by strengthening teeth and preventing cavity formation. Fluoride has been named one the 10 great public health achievements on the 20th century by the CDC and prevention. Fluoride helps re-mineralize teeth that have begun the demineralization process. If you don’t have it in your water then make sure your toothpaste and your mouth rinse have it. If you are more prone to cavities then ask your dentist about a prescriptions strength fluoride toothpaste options. Please visit the American Dental Association to learn more about fluoride and its benefits.
To summarize, no grazing, re-neutralize your mouth after snacking, clean thoroughly (especially before bed) and fight back using fluoride. If you implement these tips then you can too can eat your favorite guilty pleasure without the guilt.