Every time you eat or drink anything sugary, your teeth are under acid attack for up to one hour. This is because the sugar will react with the bacteria in plaque (the sticky coating on your teeth) and produce harmful acids. So it is important to have sugary foods or drinks just at mealtimes, limiting the amount of time your mouth is at risk.
Acidic foods and drinks can be just as harmful. The acid ‘erodes’ or dissolves the enamel, exposing the dentine underneath. This can make your teeth sensitive and unsightly.
A diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals and fresh fruit and vegetables is therefore really important in helping to prevent tooth decay.
Tooth decay damages your teeth and leads to fillings or even extractions. Decay happens when sugar reacts with the bacteria in plaque. This forms the acids that attack the teeth and destroy the enamel. After this happens many times, the tooth enamel may break down, forming a hole or ‘cavity’ into the dentine. The tooth can then decay more quickly.
Which foods can cause decay?
All sugars can cause decay. Sugar can come in many forms. Usually ingredients ending in ‘ose’ are sugars, for example: sucrose, fructose and glucose are just three types. These sugars can all damage your teeth. Many processed foods have sugar in them, and the higher up it appears in the list of ingredients, the more sugar there is in the product. Always read the list of ingredients on the labels when you are food shopping.
When you are reading the labels remember that ‘no added sugar’ does not necessarily mean that the product is sugar free. It simply means that no extra sugar has been added. These products may contain sugars such as those listed above, or the sugars may be listed as ‘carbohydrates’. Ask your dental team if you are not sure.
Can I eat snacks?
It is better for your teeth and general health if you eat 3 meals a day instead of having 7 to 10 snacks. If you do need to snack between meals, choose foods that do not contain sugar. Fruit does contain acids, which can erode your teeth. However, this is only damaging to your teeth if you eat an unusually large amount. Try not to have a lot of dried fruit as it is high in sugar and can stick to your teeth. If you do eat fruit as a snack, try to eat something alkaline such as cheese afterwards. Savoury snacks are better, such as cheese, raw vegetables, nuts or breadsticks.
What should I drink?
Still water and milk are good choices. It is better for your teeth if you drink fruit juices just at meal times. If you are drinking them between meals, try diluting them with water. Diluted sugar-free fruit drinks are the safest alternative to water and milk. If you make these, be sure that the drink is diluted 1 part fruit drink to 10 parts water. Some soft drinks contain sweeteners, which are not suitable for young children – ask your dental team if you are not sure. Fizzy drinks can increase the risk of dental problems. The sugar can cause decay and the acid in both normal and diet drinks can dissolve the enamel on the teeth. The risk is higher when you have these drinks between meals.
As your local dental practice in Leicester, we are here to help you to enjoy a happy, heathly smile for life. For more information about the part that healthy diet plays in maintaining a healthy smile, please visit the Oral Health Foundation website >>
If you are worried about any aspect of your smile, and would like to discuss this with a member of our team, please book an appointment at Hallcross Dental Practice by calling us on 0116 288 2029 or request an appointment with us via our Online Appointment Request Form >>
In categories: Routine Dentistry