When it comes to tooth decay, it’s important to know the main culprit – acid!
Acid is what eats a way at our enamel and causes cavities. Acid can enter our mouths in one of two ways: either directly through what we eat (citrus fruits, for example), or as a byproduct when oral bacteria consume the sugars that we eat.
The Litmus Test
Ultimately, a simple way to identify foods that cause tooth decay is to ask whether it’s acidic or sweet/starchy.
Acids vs. Carbs
Acidic foods include things like citrus fruits, tomatoes, vinegar, kombucha and sour candy.
Sweet/starchy foods include things like candy, soda or sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit, bread, cereal, pasta and crackers.
Note, sweets and starchy foods are lumped into one category since they both are composed of simple sugars in their most basic building blocks. So if you think eating potato chips are healthier than eating M&Ms, they are not. You are eating sugar in both cases.
Does it matter how many times a day I snack on these foods or drinks?
The longer these things interact with your teeth, the greater the chance for tooth decay to
occur. Also, the frequency is just as important to note. If you frequently snack on acidic foods or drinks and/or sweet or starchy foods and drinks, then you are MORE at risk to develop dental caries (cavities)!
For example, sipping on soda throughout the day, or chewing a gooey caramel treat, increases the amount of sugar that coat your teeth. Bacteria love to feast on this sugar, creating an acidic environment and putting your teeth at risk for decay.
Six ways to protect your teeth against tooth decay:
1. Reduce your consumption of sweets and refined starches.
This isn't difficult, however you have to make a choice requiring will power.
2. Enjoy acidic foods in moderation or as part of a meal.
Decrease snacking. If must snack between meals, try carrot sticks or celery sticks.
3. Decrease or eliminate your consumption of soda or sugar-sweetened beverages.
Make a mental note, drinking sodas or sweetened drinks are just empty calories that do not provide any nutritional value.
4. Swish with water after meals and snacks.
Trying doing it for 30 seconds each time.
5. Maintain good oral hygiene to brush away plaque buildup.
Floss at least once a day and brush twice a day.
6. And, as always, make sure to visit us regularly so we can remove tartar buildup and assess for early signs of decay.
At All Smiles Pediatric Dentistry, we incorporate proven techniques to share with you and your child at each dental checkup visit. Dr. Allen Job and his team are committed to providing the latest in oral health care prevention. For more information about brushing and flossing check out our preventive care page. Still want more information? Check out our blog posts on prevention! Our practice is centrally located in San Diego, CA.
Scheduling an appointment for your child is easy! Start here to schedule an appointment. All of our forms are online. Fill them out securely from your smartphone or tablet and hit send. On appointment day, your child will be seen at their scheduled time. For example, if you have a 9:00 AM appointment, your child will be seen at 9:00 AM.
Dr. Allen Job, DDS, MS, MPH, MS is a board certified pediatric dentist who practices in San Diego, California, where he specializes in prevention. He is also an assistant professor at Loma Linda University Department of Pediatric Dentistry.