Can Food and Drink Choices Affect Your Oral Health?

Various foods and drinks can affect the risk of developing cavities, dry mouth and dental erosion.  This month, Dr. Mary Rose discusses ways to build a healthy diet.

CAVITIES, also called tooth decay, are permanently damaged areas in the hard surface of your tooth. Anyone who has teeth can get cavities, including infants.  Plaque is a sticky substance made from food particles and saliva. If you do not brush properly after meals, the bacterium in the plaque uses the sugar from the foods you eat and produces acids that can cause cavities.  Sugar is added to many of our everyday favorite foods and drinks but also products we may not even be aware of such as chewable vitamins, frozen meals, and condiments like ketchup.  Infants sipping or sucking on fruit juice or formula for long periods of time will increase their risk for cavities as well.  Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables are always a good choice to add to your diet.  Dr. Mary Rose suggests starting to read the food labels on your favorite foods to see if sugar has been added.  Limiting those foods with added sugar and brushing after meals will improve your oral health.  Chewing gum with xylitol increases saliva which can reduce the acid in your mouth.

DRY MOUTH, or Xerostomia, is a condition where your salivary glands in your mouth do not make enough saliva to keep your mouth wet.  Certain medications, radiotherapy to the head and neck, and breathing through your mouth while you sleep are some of the causes of dry mouth.  Saliva helps neutralize acids and wash away food particles.  Dry Mouth limits your ability to taste and makes it difficult to chew and swallow.  If you suffer from dry mouth, Dr. Mary Rose suggests limiting alcohol, snacks like chips, acidic foods or beverages, and caffeinated drinks.  Adding crunchy vegetables and fruits like carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, apples, and pears will help with saliva production.  Sugar free candy or gum containing xylitol will help increase saliva as well.

Dental Erosion, occurs when acids dissolve away part of the enamel surface of your teeth.  Acidic food and drinks, certain medications, acid reflux or excessive vomiting can increase the risk of dental erosion.  Dental erosion can occur at any age.  Dr. Mary Rose suggests drinking water especially after eating acidic foods.  Dr. Mary Rose also recommends adding foods like milk and yogurt which may reduce the acid in your mouth.

If you have any questions regarding your food and drink choices, Dr. Mary Rose would be happy to discuss your diet during your dental visit.

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