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We all know sugar is bad for our teeth… but many don't realize there is a right and wrong way to eat sugary foods. Of course it’s best to avoid sugar and refined carbs altogether. But we all deserve a treat every once in awhile, so here are some tips on how you can minimize damage while maximizing deliciousness!
Ask yourself: "How long will this be in my mouth?"
It’s less a matter of how much of a cavity-causing food you eat — what matters more is how long it takes you to eat it. The shorter the exposure to teeth, the better. After the sugar is converted to acid by the bacteria in the mouth, the duration of the acid exposure to the tooth is key.
Sucking on a hard candy is far worse than eating even several slices of apple pie. That’s because it takes quite a while to finish hard candy, but a piece of pie takes minutes to polish off. Treats that you chew and swallow right away — like a slice of pie, cake, or cookie are the best choices to protect your teeth.
The longer you bathe your teeth in sugar, the more you feed the bacteria in your mouth, promoting plaque buildup and the formation of cavities.
Eat treats during meal time
If it’s loaded with sugar, your best bet is to eat it with a meal instead of as a stand-alone snack. The other foods and drinks from your meal help prevent sugar from sticking to your teeth.
Rinse with water
The water acts to neutralize the acids in your mouth after indulging in the sweet. Dr. B’s water of choice is Pellegrino which is a slightly alkaline water (pH of 7.5) that is a fantastic acid neutralizer (and tastes delicious!).
Don’t brush for at least 30 minutes.
Acids in the mouth from eating sugary or processed snacks leave your teeth vulnerable. If your teeth have been exposed to acid (which they have after eating something sweet) the very top layer becomes soft and can be scrubbed away by a toothbrush. Give it 30 minutes and it will re-harden and become safe to brush again. Drink water in the meantime to speed up the hardening process.
Replace your brush head regularly
Brushing with worn and abrasive bristles can wear away healthy enamel. Buying into the a system like quip that sends you fresh brush heads automatically every three months, can keep you up-to-date with replacing your toothbrush heads to assure you won’t be wearing away perfectly healthy enamel and dentin this holiday season.
Some smart snacks that will help protect your teeth
Eat cheese, which acts to neutralize acid in the mouth and naturally protects teeth from decay. Eat flourless crackers. Dr. B’s favorite are Organic Mary’s Gone Crackers or anything with lots of seeds and no flour. Stay away from saltine crackers, which are worse than candy for causing tooth decay.
Defer to dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao content, which, believe it or not, is proven to reduce tooth decay and is more effective than fluoride according to some studies. Eat grapes, which are high in water content, so the sugar is tempered with water. A dried grape (the raisin) is all the sugar without the water and can get pretty sticky in the mouth.
Drink Pellegrino or other alkaline mineral waters. Water that is neutral or alkaline in pH can offset an acidic meal or treat. The more and frequent the better.
This tip was co-written by Dr. Mark Burhenne
See more tips from Mark at AskTheDentist.com