Do you have a sweet tooth? You aren’t alone. Research has shown that Americans consume as much as 66 pounds of added sugar every year, a truth that makes Long Island Periodontists squirm in their chairs. Since sugary snacks and soda contribute to oral decay, stained teeth, and even periodontal disease, ingesting all of that extra sugar could have dire implications for your smile. However, you don’t have to quit sugar altogether in order to save your teeth. Here are four ways to avoid cavities and tooth decay while enjoying sweets.
1. Focus On Duration and Frequency
If you are like most people, you might wonder how much candy is too much candy. Although everyone should focus on limiting candy and soda consumption based on general health concerns, the amount of time that candy has in contact with your teeth is just as important as the actual amount you eat.
Candy itself doesn’t harm your teeth; the bacteria that feed off of those simple sugars does. Twenty-five different strains of a tooth-damaging bacteria called Streptococcus mutans utans live in your mouth, each doing different kinds of damage. As these bacterial strains grow and multiply, they emit acids that erode dental enamel and allow bacteria to invade your teeth and gums. However, by limiting the amount of time sugars stay on your teeth, you can limit the amount of damage these acids can do.
To prevent dental damage, experts recommend enjoying your sweets in a single sitting instead of grazing on them throughout the day. Avoid sweets that require long contact with your teeth, such as suckers, which create a sugary environment in your mouth for long periods of time. Keep in mind that decreasing the frequency that you enjoy sugar can help too, so try to limit your sugary indulgences to once or twice a day at most.
2. Sip Through A Straw
When you enjoy sodas, you are essentially bathing your teeth in sugars, acids, and dyes. In addition to allowing that red, brown, or bright green fluid to seep through your dental enamel and create unsightly staining, drinking soda can also give your oral bacteria a serious sugar rush—giving them the energy they need to do their damage.
Fortunately, a change as simple as sucking your soda through a straw could help you to avoid dental decay. When you drink through a straw, you are depositing soda pop directly onto your tongue and the back of your mouth, away from your teeth. In addition to keeping your teeth whiter and brighter, drinking soda through a straw also helps to eliminate dental decay—since less of that sugary beverage actually has a chance to touch your teeth. In fact, research has shown that using a straw to drink soda can reduce cavities, keeping your teeth healthy and comfortable.
3. Focus On Diet and Exercise
When it comes to your health, few things can help as much as a focus on diet and exercise. However, most people miss the benefits moving around and eating healthy foods can have for their teeth.
When you have a healthy body, your immune system works better, which helps your teeth to stay in good condition. For example, if plaque and tartar are allowed to build on your gumline and attract bacteria, a healthy body can respond more aggressively towards invading bacterial threats, reducing infections.
To keep your teeth and gums healthy, it is also highly important to make sure that you stay properly hydrated. Experts recommend drinking at least eight 8-oz. glasses of water a day, and increasing that consumption if you exercise vigorously or live in a hot environment. Water does more than keep your blood flowing and regulate your body temperature. In addition to giving your gums the moisture that they need to support your teeth, water also helps to dilute bacterial acids and rinse away food particles.
As you make food choices throughout the day, focus on lean proteins, crunchy vegetables, healthy fruits, and whole grains. Try to eat sugar in moderation, and consider choosing more satiating desserts so that you don’t eat as much. For example, instead of munching on a few handfuls of hard candies, enjoy a nice slice of cheesecake after dinner or a luscious chocolate cookie after lunch.
4. Chew Sugar-Free Gum
If you suffer from dry mouth, you might find yourself instinctively sucking on candies to keep that saliva flowing. In addition to being uncomfortable, having a dry mouth can also allow bacteria to run rampant, since saliva helps to kill bacteria and neutralize the acids that they produce.
Fortunately, you can ward off bacterial growth from enjoying sugary foods by chewing sugar-free gum after meals. Research has shown that chewing gum can boost saliva levels by as much as ten times the resting rate, helping your mouth to stay healthy. Also, if you suspect that you suffer from dry mouth, make an appointment with a Long Island Periodontist for a CPE, or comprehensive periodontal exam. During these exams, your doctor will evaluate the health and hydration of your gingival tissues.
For more information on how to prevent tooth decay, meet with your dentist or periodontist today. If you already have damaged or missing teeth due to an overconsumption of sugar, meet with an implant dentist in Long Island to talk about your tooth restoration options.