Just about everyone knows sugar can play a major role in tooth decay, but forsaking all sugary treats for the average American is not an option especially during the holiday season when sweets abound. Since our goal is to help our patients prevent cavities we thought we would share some tips on how to improve your odds against decay while still enjoying some holiday treats.
For those of you who may not know dental plaque contains bacteria and these bacteria feed on sugar. Unfortunately this process releases byproducts of acids and enzymes. These acids and enzymes dissolve tooth enamel and the more exposure a tooth has the more damage can occur causing a hole in the enamel of the tooth, what’s commonly known as a cavity.
The American Dental Association (ADA) has some recommendations to help prevent decay and cavities. They suggest limiting the amount of time throughout the day you spend consuming candy and sweetened beverages, instead only consuming these items with meals. During a meal the amount of saliva in your mouth increases which washes away food particles and helps neutralize plaque acid. Another consideration in tooth decay is the type of candy. The longer the amount of time your mouth is exposed to sugary candies and foods the more time it has to produce corrosive acids and enzymes. Following that logic sticky candy like gummies, taffy, and caramel take longer to dissolve and leave your mouth than a substance like chocolate. Hard candies can also be more detrimental than other types of candy because they tend to stay in the mouth for prolonged periods of time allowing for greater exposure to the acids produced by bacteria.
As always we recommend good oral hygiene which includes flossing daily and brushing at least twice per day. The ADA also suggests chewing gum that has the ADA Seal of Acceptance for 20 minutes after meals. A well rounded diet rich in vitamins and other essential nutrients will also help rebuild tooth enamel and bones. Visit the ADA’s page on nutrition for more information on their dietary tips: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/Teens/nutrition