How foods affect your teeth
Having a balanced diet and minimising snacking in-between meals can help keep your teeth and gums healthy.
"Consumption of sugary foods and drinks on a regular basis is the number one cause of tooth decay," says the Australian Dental Association (ADA), which represents Australian and New Zealand registered dentists. "Tooth decay is caused by how frequently we snack and how long you are exposed to food at any one time."
This doesn’t mean just lollies and fizzy drinks; this includes foods that are high in natural sugars or starch. "This is because every time we eat, our teeth are exposed to an acid attack," says the ADA. "The acid attack comes from the bacteria in our mouths fermenting the food we eat to make acid, and if our teeth are exposed to this acid long enough tooth decay will develop."
Does brushing after snacking help?
"If you’ve eaten an acidic or sugary food or drink, avoid brushing your teeth right away," they advise. "These acids weaken tooth enamel, and brushing too soon can remove enamel." You should wait at least 30 minutes after eating or drinking acidic or sugary foods before you brush your teeth.
Foods to help strengthen teeth
"Cheese is one of the healthiest snacks for your teeth and it stimulates your saliva and neutralises acids," says the ADA. "Milk, cheese and yoghurt contain calcium, phosphorus and the protein casein – nutrients which have been shown to protect tooth enamel." Remember to read labels on foods such as yoghurt, as flavoured yoghurt can sometimes contain lots of added sugar.
Which foods should I only eat sometimes?
"The bacteria in your mouth use carbohydrates as energy and produces acid as a by-product," says the NZDA. "Some carbs - especially those like sucrose, as found in sweets and soft-drinks - cause more acid to be produced, and are worse for your teeth. Avoid eating sugary, sticky and crispy snacks in between meals. Replace these with healthier snacks such as fresh fruit pieces, cheese, chopped vegetables and sandwiches. Stick to water and milk, especially between meals."
Can chewing gum help clean my teeth?
Chewing sugar free gum can help keep your teeth healthy, says the New Zealand Dental Association. "Chewing sugar free gum comes into the equation by stimulating saliva, which neutralises plaque acid that can build up on your teeth after eating or drinking,” says Dr David Crum, Executive Director of the NZDA. Studies have proven that chewing sugar free gum for approximately 20 minutes after eating and/or drinking can provide significant benefits to dental health by stimulating saliva. [Conclusion] Avoiding sugary treats, brushing your teeth and seeing your dentist regularly are all positive steps you can take to help keep your smile healthy and happy.
Avoiding sugary treats, brushing your teeth and seeing your dentist regularly are all positive steps you can take to help keep your smile healthy and happy.