With the beginning of long afternoons in the sun, it may be difficult to resist savouring the sweet taste of ice cold slushies, freezies and ice cream. Limiting the amount of sugary sweets we consume will prevent cavities. Overindulgence in sweets and carbohydrates combined with a lack of dental hygiene will lead to decay. Sugar acts as a food reservoir for naturally occurring bacteria in your mouth. The bacteria consume the sugar and change it into acid. This combination of acid and bacteria sits on your teeth as plaque leading to holes in your teeth.
According to the Canadian Dental Association, the average number of decayed, missing or filled teeth per child is 2.5 teeth. Dental sick days have lead to 2.26 million school-days (for children) and 4.15 million working-days (for adults) missed annually.
With this in mind, you can use the following foods to prevent cavities:
Dairy products prevent cavity formation by counteracting the acidity which would have lead to dental decay. Studies have shown that cheese has the strongest anti-cavity effect as compared to milk and yogurt. After 30 minutes of eating, cheese raises the pH (reduces the acidity) which increases calcium released through the saliva. Calcium will help to remineralise (harden) the enamel. Great news for Brie fans.
An apple a day really does keep the doctor away. Although fruits contain sugars like fructose, the benefits of the anti-cavity effect outweigh the risks. The tartness of apples stimulates saliva flow which helps to wash away the sugars and reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth. The fiber in apples literally scrapes away dental plaque as you chew.
Not only are they good for your overall health, but kale and spinach also promote excellent oral health. Their calcium content is relatively high which will help to rebuild your enamel. As well, there are many excellent B vitamins. Folic acid, a type of B vitamin has the potential to improve gum disease in pregnant women
Chewing sugary gum will actually increase your risk of cavities but sugar-free gum will significantly reduce your risk. Sugar-free gum literally stimulates saliva flow which has many protective proteins to kill bacteria and prevent dental decay. As well, the amount of saliva produced will wash away the remains of the plaque. The best types of sugar-free gum are those made with Xylitol. Xylitol is a natural sweetener which kills cavity-forming bacteria.
Most tap water in Ontario contains trace amounts of Fluoride which is nature’s cavity fighter. Drinking Fluoridated water is one of the most beneficial things you can do to prevent decay. While there is controversy surrounding water fluoridation, the Canadian Dental Association supports this regimen. Not all communities in Ontario have fluoridated water though. Speak to your dental healthcare provider if you know they are not. Numerous studies show a significant reduction in cavities in the entire community when fluoride is introduced.
Water washes away plaque, sugar and bacteria. Saliva is 99% water. Carbonated water will not have the same benefits as the acidity from the fizz will weaken the tooth enamel. Even better—water is calorie free. So stick to cold water in the hot sun.
Milk neutralises the acidity in your saliva after consuming sugary foods and drinks. Drinking milk keeps your teeth and bones strong. It protects your tooth enamel by providing calcium and phosphorous which will help to remineralise (rebuild) your tooth structure. Milk fortified with Vitamin D will also help to keep your teeth and bones strong.