When it comes to taking care of your oral health, West Linn dentist Dr. Robert Dugger want patient to know that you can never take too many precautions. Trying to avoid tooth decay and gums disease requires paying daily attention to your teeth and gums. Failing to brush and floss for just a few days allows bacteria to buildup in your mouth that can damage the long-term health of tooth enamel, and eventually lead to disease and decay.
While you would ideally brush and floss immediately following every meal, most people don’t have the time or opportunity to practice that kind of detailed oral hygiene. Fortunately, there are a number of dental tricks you can use to help minimize the effects of harmful bacteria on your oral health. Here are a few eating and drinking habits you can use to help protect your teeth and gums.
Chew Gum After Meals
Your mouth contains millions of bacteria, most of which don’t present any threat to your oral health. Plaque, however, is a sticky biofilm comprised of bacteria and lingering food particles that builds up on your teeth. Whenever you eat sugar, plaque begins to produce acids that slowly erode away at tooth enamel, which can eventually lead to gum disease.
Saliva acts as your body’s natural defense mechanism against plaque by neutralizing the harmful acids the bacteria produces. Chewing gum after a meal increases the saliva flow in your mouth, which helps to wash away lingering food particles and plaque acid from your teeth. This helps to reduce the effects plaque has on your teeth after eating and prevent decay. The American Dental Association actually recommends chewing sugar free gum after meals as a way to prevent cavities. So if you don’t have the time to brush after eating, clean your teeth with a stick of gum instead.
Cheese for Dessert
Highly acidic foods, such as tomatoes, citrus fruit, apples, bananas, and melons, might have great flavor, but they can lead to tooth decay when eaten too often. The acids these foods contain weaken tooth enamel, leaving it more susceptible to damage caused by plaque acids. To help neutralize these acids, eat a piece of cheese following any meal that contains a heavy amount of acidic foods. A bite of cheese eaten after an acid exposure will help to neutralize acid in the mouth and prevent further damage to tooth enamel.
Brush Your Teeth While Eating
Foods that have a firm, crisp texture can help to clean your teeth as you eat. Apples, celery, raw carrots, cucumbers, and even popcorn work to scrub away plaque acids and other linger food particles from your mouth when consumed. The firm texture and high water content most of these foods contain act as nature’s own toothbrush, and make a great midday or late afternoon snack following a larger meal.
Use a Straw
Just as the acidic foods can damage the health of your teeth, so can highly acidic or carbonated drinks. Soda, for example, contains malic, fumaric, and tartaric acid that, when combined with the carbonation found in these types of drinks, can actually do more harm to the health of your teeth than battery acid. To help minimize your teeth’s exposure to these harmful liquids, drink them from a straw instead of directly from the can or bottle. Your front teeth receive the most exposure when consuming sodas and fruit juice. However, by using a straw, you can bypass your front teeth entirely when consuming these liquids and help to prevent enamel damage.
Drink Plenty of Milk
As plaque acids begin damaging tooth enamel, the surface of your teeth begin going through a process called demineralization where valuable minerals, such as calcium, are lost. By drinking milk, taking calcium supplements, or eating more cheese and yogurt, you can help replace these missing minerals and start the process of remineralization, which help to strengthen tooth enamel and restore the luster to your smile.
If you have any questions about the best practices for your teeth, be sure to ask West Linn dentist Dr. Dugger during your next appointment at Dugger Dentistry.