During this time of the year, all kinds of festivities are beginning to fill your calendar – you attend year-end functions, birthdays, weddings, parties and other functions, all with a common theme – food. From rich pastries, to moist cakes, buttery biscuits, savoury snacks, and a refreshing range of beverages, we can all agree that this is the most wonderful time of the year. While it is never a bad thing to eat our favourite foods, guilty pleasures do tend to take their toll on our bodies. Our teeth endure an increased build-up of tartar and plaque when we eat foods higher in sugar, and if we don’t practice regular dental hygiene habits, our teeth can gradually give way and be lost for good. The trick is not only in good dental hygiene, but also in nutritional moderation – a little can never be too much. The article below will show us how we can still eat the foods we love and keep our teeth in good condition.
Your teeth are covered with a hard, external layer called enamel, which serves to protect your teeth against tooth decay. When we eat food, a white layer called tartar builds up and forms what is known as plaque. When left unattended, plaque may erode or eat away at the enamel of your teeth, leaving the inner tissue of your teeth vulnerable to irreparable damage. Should this damage reach the nerve of the tooth, your Dentist may advise that the tooth is dead and must be removed. There are, however, some foods which are lower in tartar-causing substances and will assist in strengthening your teeth from the inside out.
Some popular festive foods causing tooth decay are :
- Carbonated soft drinks and alcohol
- Fried foods
- Refined starches or carbohydrates, such as white breads, pastas, and crackers
The effects of these foods can be controlled by carefully selecting the choice of foods we eat and leaning towards a more balanced healthy diet. The good foods to increase the quality if your teeth are:
- Fibre-rich fruits and vegetables. Foods rich in fibre keep your teeth and gums clean, get saliva flowing, and are the best natural defence against cavities and gum disease. 20 minutes after eating something that has refined carbs, saliva begins to reduce the effects of acids and enzymes attacking your teeth. Saliva contains traces of calcium and phosphate, so it restores minerals to areas of teeth that have lost them from the bacterial acids.
- Cheese, milk, plain yogurt, and other dairy products. The calcium in cheese, and the calcium and phosphates in milk and other dairy products, help put restore minerals your teeth might have lost because of other foods. They also help rebuild tooth enamel.
- Green and black tea contain polyphenols, which interact with plaque bacteria to either kill or inhibit bacteria. Tea prevents bacteria from growing or making acid that attacks teeth. Depending on the type of water you use to brew your tea, a cup of tea can also be a source of fluoride.
- Sugarless chewing gum. This is another great saliva maker that removes food particles from your mouth.
- Foods with fluoride.Fluoridated drinking water, or any product you make with fluoridated water, helps your teeth. This includes powdered juices (as long as they don’t contain a lot of sugar) and dehydrated soups. Commercially prepared foods, such as poultry products, seafood, and powdered cereals, also can give fluoride.
The key lies in balancing the acid production in response to what you eat. Eating higher amounts of sugar and refined carbs leads to a higher amount of acid produced. Acidity levels are measured in terms of pH levels. The more plaque or tartar you have on your teeth, the higher the pH will be. We do not want a high pH level, as this would mean that a lot more than just our teeth or gums suffer from erosion in our mouths. The better the quality of your nutrition, the more saliva your mouth can produce to literally cleanse your mouth of acid and save your teeth.
In addition to caring for your teeth with the usual flossing and brushing rituals, you can take it upon yourself to keep track of what goes into your mouth and pay more attention to the outcomes.