09 Mar 2018 Does Snacking Cause Cavities?
I don’t think there is a person alive who doesn’t like an occasional snack. A small child may want some goldfish crackers at the park and an adult may want a doughnut at an early work meeting. Food is stimulating, comforting, and needed to sustain life! As great as snacking is, how does it affect our teeth?
Unfortunately, snacking may not be the best for our teeth.
Here is why:
- When we eat, bacteria, occurring in our mouth, breaks down food to help digest it. Acid is produced in this process.
- Acid eats away at tooth enamel unless water or saliva slows or stops the process.
- Luckily, our bodies were designed this way. Saliva can help restore our mouth’s pH. It can even help remineralize our teeth.
Now, here is where snacking comes in:
- We eat a snack and our mouth bacteria creates acid and our body creates saliva.
- We eat another snack. Our mouth’s pH level hasn’t recovered from the first snack. Now there is a second snack to digest and recover from.
- We eat a third snack. Our body can’t keep up. Acid builds up in our mouths and starts to weaken tooth enamel. There is no time to recover or rebuild enamel. A cavity is formed.
As much as we love to do it, limiting snacking will help our teeth to be stronger and to avoid needing cavities filled.
What You Snack on Matters!
- Start with water. Throughout the day, our bodies can quickly dehydrate. Sometimes we think we feel hungry when really we are thirsty. When you want a snack, drink water first.
- Limit sweet drinks, including sodas, sport drinks, and juices. I didn’t say you couldn’t ever have them, just have less of them.
- Choose healthy snacks like fruits and veggies. Fruits like apples and pears can help scrub your teeth. Grapes are alkaline (the opposite of acidic) and can help restore the pH balance of your mouth. Avoid chewy, sticky candy like licorice, taffy, and gummy bears. All of these candies stick to teeth longer, causing more problems. Dried fruits, although healthier than candy, also stick on your teeth.
- Limit crackers, chips, and bread for snacks. All of these starchy foods can get stuck in your teeth and can take longer for your body’s saliva to do its job.
- Avoid snacking on breakfast cereal. No matter if it is Lucky Charms or Cheerios, these cereals are sugary and easily caught between teeth.
- Limit snacking on hard things like hard candy and ice. Chewing either can weaken or even break your teeth.
An Important Tip to a Healthy Mouth
If are going to eat snacks that create bacteria and compromise your teeth, eat them and then wait about 30 minutes and then brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste. It’s important to wait the 30 minutes for your mouth to return to a neutral pH before you brush. Brushing immediately after eating is tough on teeth because they are already in a compromised state. If you can’t brush, rinsing your mouth with water is a great alternative.