What are the main dietary factors that affect dental health?
Here is the answer: sugars and acids.
For ideal dental health, pH in the mouth should be neutral. This is because our teeth are made of a mineral called calcium hydroxyapatite, which will break down in an acid environment. When bacteria are responsible for the acidic mineral breakdown, the condition is called dental caries, or what we all know as tooth decay.
Oral bacteria, sugar and tooth decay
The bacteria that form the plaque surrounding our teeth are very efficient at converting the sugars that we consume into strong acids which break down the tooth mineral. About 30 minutes after eating, the saliva in our mouths would have brought the pH back from acid to neutral. In the mean time, we are left with de-mineralised areas on our teeth. The good news is, that the teeth will re-mineralise with the calcium and phosphates in our saliva over the following hours.
If, however, we choose to keep eating and drinking sugar-containing foods frequently enough throughout the day that the total amount of time that the teeth exist in an acid environment exceeds the time they spend in a neutral environment, the balance will be tipped in favour of tooth decay and a cavity will form. When the cavity breaks through the protective enamel of the tooth, a filling is needed.
Acidic food and drink just makes the situation worse. The acid weakens the superficial mineral of the teeth so that bacterial acid will have an even easier time in penetrating into the tooth. The process of tooth decay is accelerated.
The worst combinations
The worst possible dietary combinations for dental health is sugar combined with acid (think fizzy drinks, and sports drinks) and sugars in sticky foods which adhere to the teeth and therefore prolong their presence (think lollies and dried fruit).
The simplest solution is to restrict dietary sugar (which will incidentally also help prevent obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, anxiety, dementia and cancer proliferation). Otherwise, managing sugar intake is the next step. Reduce the frequency to allow your mouth the greatest amount of time at pH neutral. Drinking water after sugar or chewing sugar-free gum will assist in rapid recovery from an acid oral pH.
Want to know more about “Diet and Dental Health”? Talk to our experienced dentists at Apple Dental today!