Your diet directly affects the state of your oral health. By avoiding foods that are high in sugar, acid, and starch (such as cakes, cookies, soda, and candy), you can help limit the spread of the bacteria that causes caries (cavities). When you eat, the bacteria in your mouth attack the sugars in the food, which causes the bacteria to produce acid. This causes the pH level of your mouth to drop into the acidic zone and tooth enamel begins to erode (a process called demineralization). In a healthy mouth, the saliva will help to raise the pH level and remineralize (heal) the enamel.
In order to prevent tooth decay and minimize the amount of acid caused by bacteria on your teeth, it is important to follow these guidelines:
- Limit your snack intake between meals. When you do snack, choose foods such as meats, nuts, cheese, or milk that may balance the acidity of your mouth and remineralize your teeth. Firm fruits (like pears or apples) and vegetables are also beneficial to your oral health. Avoid cookies, crackers, muffins, potato chips, pretzels, bananas, dried fruits, raisins, French fries, breads, cakes, and candy. These foods tend to stick and become difficult to remove from your teeth.
- Limit your sugar intake from soft drinks or other drinks containing sugar. Drinks to avoid include tea and coffee with added sugar, lemonade, cocoa, and fruit juices. Other than water, you should avoid constantly sipping any drink.
- Limit your intake of acidic foods. This includes citrus fruits and seltzer water, because they can contribute to erosion and demineralization.
- Always brush your teeth after you eat. Use toothpaste that contains fluoride and brush for a full two minutes.
- Chew sugarless gum containing Xylitol. Xylitol can help reduce your risk for cavities. In addition, chewing gum can help dislodge food that has become stuck in the teeth. It also increases the flow of saliva, which helps to buffer the acids in your mouth.