A healthy diet is good for general health as well as oral health. Nutritious meals and snacks help build strong teeth and healthy gums. It is also important to practice good oral hygiene as poor oral health can negatively affect your general health. Dental caries or cavities are one of the most common preventable chronic diseases in humans and in particular children and teens.
What Causes Cavities?
Three main factors must be simultaneously present for cavities to occur:
- microbial dental plaque (Streptococcus mutans and lactobacillus)
- teeth susceptible to caries
- frequent supply of fermentable carbohydrate
sugar + bacteria = acid
acid + tooth = cavity
Cavities result from the action of organic acids, which are produced through the fermentation of carbohydrates by plaque micro-organisms. Acid production causes the plaque pH to fall, resulting in enamel demineralization and diffusion of calcium and phosphorus into the plaque.
Several factors affect the risk for dental caries:
- The sugar and starch content of a food.
- How often a food is eaten throughout the day. Frequent snacking increases the risk of dental caries.
- The sequence of foods eaten. High sugar foods eaten after a meal significantly decreases risk compared to eating them alone.
- The combination of foods eaten. Cheese consumed with or immediately after ingestion of a sucrose solution or snack has been shown to limit the fall in plaque pH. Cheeses stimulate an abundant salivary flow, which helps to remove residual sugar from the mouth and neutralizes plaque acids. In addition, cheese promotes incorporation of high levels of calcium and phosphate into human dental plaque and reduces the amount of demineralization.
- The amount of time the food remains in the mouth. Eating sticky or dry foods that remain on the teeth increase risk. Rinsing or brushing after eating significantly decreases risk.
- The amount of saliva in the mouth. Saliva serves to dilute and buffer the acid. Individuals with a reduced saliva production are more prone to dental caries.
To prevent a cavity, try not to snack continuously. Instead, have 1-3 snacks per day and rinse your mouth after if it contained sugar. If you have sweets, try to avoid sticky sweets, and don’t eat them alone as a snack, combine them with mouth friendly foods such as cheese, nuts, fruit, vegetables and dairy. Make water your beverage of choice. Brush your teeth twice daily, floss between the teeth daily and visit your dentist for professional cleaning.
Here is a list of a few tooth friendly snacks and beverages:
- Glass of milk, soymilk, almond milk or oatmilk
- Tomato or Vegetable Juice
- Unsweetened tea or coffee
- Diet pop
- Plain yogurt and Full fat yogurt
- Fruit and yogurt
- Cheese and Crackers
- Peanut butter and toast
- Fruit (apples, pears, oranges, peaches, strawberries, grapes, melon, bananas etc.)
- Vegetables (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce etc.)
- Veggies and Tzatziki
- Sandwiches with protein (egg, tuna, cheese, turkey, chicken)
- Hummus and Pita
- Cottage cheese
- Hard-boiled egg
- Nuts and Seeds or trail mix
- Pasta salads with cheese and vegetables
- Lentil salad
- Smoked salmon and cream cheese on a bagel