6 Effective Food Habits to Prevent Tooth Decay
6 Effective Food Habits to Prevent Tooth Decay
Have you met anyone who likes going to the dentist? Neither have we. Unfortunately it is something that a large percentage of people cannot avoid. One of the most common dental diseases is the occurrence of tooth decay or dental caries. While there are a number of factors combining to cause dental decay, a key predictor for the occurrence of tooth decay is a non-nutritional diet. What causes decay?
Decay or dental caries is caused by a combination of factors. The three main factors that lead to tooth decay are a conducive diet, presence of micro-organisms and poor oral hygiene. Streptococcus mutans, which is the main type of micro-organism group responsible for causing decay, is present in each and every person. It is the poor diet and oral hygiene which allow the small number of Streptococcus mutans to grow and start causing harmful effects in the mouth. (1)
Role of diet
Processed food rich in sugar is the most harmful to our oral health. The reason for this is that this food gets broken down to acids that decrease the pH of the saliva and make it acidic. The acidic saliva promotes the breakdown of our tooth surface thus making it easier for subsequent populations of micro-organisms to colonize these small niches on the tooth.
This will also happen if a person does not have good oral hygiene since the sheer number of micro-organisms will overcome the defense functions of the tooth. In the current era, people are more aware of good oral hygiene habits and are more likely to follow them than ever before, so the onus of increased incidence of decay falls on the degrading quality of our diet.
Food habits that prevent decay
Minimize total intake of Sugar:It has been studied that the incidence of dental caries is directly related to the amount of dietary sugar being consumed by the person. This is the reason why tooth decay is becoming extremely common in developing countries in line with the increasing purchasing power of their huge middle class. Countries which have an average consumption of sugar less than 18kg per person per year have a much lower rate of tooth decay than others. (2)
Try and exclude food that are packaged or highly preserved from your diet since these foods have a much higher amount of sugar than natural food.
Frequency of food intake: Do not eat in between meals? Well, it turns out that there are some serious scientific backing to make that statement! Every time we eat something, particularly something that is sweet and sugary, the pH of our saliva rises and promotes demineralization. It takes some time for the pH to return back to normal. Making sure that you do not eat in between meals helps minimize this time and thus protects the integrity of your teeth. (3)
Fruits and Vegetables: Now, you must be thinking that most fruits are sweet and that sugars are bad for teeth. Yes, that is right, however fruits also come loaded with natural fiber which helps counteract the action of the sugar present in them. The natural sugar is also much lesser in quantity than in packaged food and has the added advantage of increasing the salivary.
An increased amount of saliva is beneficial in returning the pH to normal and physically cleaning the teeth.
Crisp fruits like Apples are excellent for the health of the teeth. Vegetables like celery, spinach and carrots should be included in the teeth since they are full of vitamins and minerals that are necessary for the proper development and integrity of the teeth. Their rough texture also helps remove the plaque from the teeth. (4)
Yogurt : Recent evidence has emerged that Yogurt and other probiotic rich food helps promote the growth of healthy bacterial species in the mouth that fight the cariogenic species and thus reduce the incidence of tooth decay.
Make sure that you are getting plenty of these foods which promote your overall health in multiple other ways as well. (4)
Xylitol: This is a non cariogenic sweetener that helps fight tooth decay. A study conducted in Finnish adults found that there was a 85% reduction in tooth decay when sucrose sugar was replaced with xylitol. While such a drastic change is not possible in everyday life, you can chew xylitol containing gum in between meals to help reduce the chances of tooth decay.
Xylitol helps raise the pH of the saliva back to above the ‘critical’ level quickly and it is this effect that has been cited as the reason for its anticariogenic effect. (5)
Fluoride: Adding fluoride to the diet or through fluoridated water is one of the most effective methods to reduce the incidence of tooth decay. Fluoride works by strengthening the mineralization structure of the tooth and making it more resistant to microbial insults.
This is most effective in young children when the teeth are still developing however it has proven benefits even in adults with completely mineralized teeth. (6)
We now know that tooth decay is caused by a complex interplay of a number of factors, all of which may not be controllable by us, however following these simple food habits and making the right choices will go a long way in preventing caries and saving you painful (and expensive) visits to the dentist.
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