Tooth decay is a natural part of aging, and something we will all face as we get older.
Yet just because our teeth are prone to natural wear and tear, doesn’t mean you can’t prevent the rate of decay.
In fact, with the right diet and food choices, it is possible to prevent tooth decay and keep your teeth healthy and strong.
Learning to recognise the good from the bad
Everyone knows eating too many sugary foods – sweets, biscuits and chocolate – can accelerate the rate of erosion on your teeth. Reputed to partner with the plaque in your mouth to weaken enamel; every time you eat something sugary, your teeth are left under siege for 20 minutes. 20 minutes, that if experienced multiple times a day on a daily basis can do lasting damage.
However, sugar is not alone…
There are, in fact, many other common foods that despite their appearances aren’t always good for your teeth. For that reason, it is essential that you are able to differentiate between the foods that can do harm and good, so you can balance your diet and ensure moderation.
Food that will Help Prevent Tooth Decay
- Calcium – milk, yogurts and cheeses are a great choice for strengthening your teeth (your enamel) and preventing tooth decay, especially in children. However, due to their high fat content we suggest switching to skimmed milk and low-fat yogurts to keep your body healthy. Other good sources of calcium include leafy greens (broccoli and bok choy), canned fish, almonds, Brazil nuts and dried beans.
- Fruit, Vegetables and Fibre – many dentists recommend eating high fibre foods to keep your saliva flowing. This extra saliva helps to protect your teeth from decay by creating mineral defences. Good sources for fibre include dried fruits (dates, raisins and figs), fresh fruits (bananas, apples and oranges), vegetables (beans, Brussel sprouts and peas) and peanuts, almonds and bran.
- Whole Grain Foods – rich in Vitamins B and iron, these are essential for the health of your gums; whilst their magnesium content is vital for your teeth and bones. Carrying on from the previous point (on fibre), we suggest opting for whole grain foods that are high in fibre such as bran, brown rice, whole grain cereals and pasta.
- Sugar-free Gum – whilst not an essential part of your diet, chewing sugar-free gum after you eat can help to reduce tooth decay as it increases saliva production in your mouth, helping to neutralise acids that can harm and damage your enamel.
- The Food Pyramid – when it comes to the health of your teeth, many dentists recommend following the Food Pyramid. Based on a balance between dairy, carbohydrates, fats and fibre; this pyramid is designed to offer your body all the necessary nutrients its needs whilst maintaining a level of moderation over the foods that aren’t always good for you.
Foods to watch out for
The biggest culprit for tooth decay is sugar, so the first step to helping your teeth is to limit the amount you eat and drink, and ensure that you only have them at meal times. During meals, your body naturally realises an assortment of enzymes – as well as extra saliva – to break down foods and prevent the build-up of plaque.
Similarly, it is important to eat processed and ready-made foods in moderation, as many contain high levels of sugar, that if you don’t look for them will remain hidden.
Foods to careful with:
- Sweets, chocolate, cakes (sponge puddings) and biscuits
- Pastries and fruit pies
- Table sugar (on your cereal and in your tea)
- Sugary breakfast cereals (especially cereals already coated in sugar i.e. Frosties)
- Jam, honey and marmalade
- Ice cream
- Dried fruit or fruits stored in syrup (dried fruit is okay in moderation, however, many are coated in sugar to help preserve them)
- Sugar drinks – fizzy drinks, milkshakes, alcohol and fruit juice
- Medicine – children’s medicines in particular often contain sugar, so make sure to opt for their sugar-free alternatives.
Naturally one of the easiest ways to prevent tooth decay is to implement a practice of good oral hygiene. Brushing your teeth twice a day, and remembering to floss and use mouthwash can all help to prevent the build-up of plaque and acids.
However, like all things, if you don’t use these properly your teeth could still be at risk.
Tips Prevent Tooth Decay
- Brushing – you should always brush your teeth for at least 2 minutes, once during the day (although wait an hour after eating) and most importantly again just before you go to bed. Brushing straight after a meal can actually damage your teeth if you’ve consumed any foods or drinks that contain acid (fizzy drinks, fruit and wine), so wait an hour to brush so your saliva has time to neutralise the acid.When you brush your teeth it is also important that you do it the right way with the head of your toothbrush placed against your teeth, then tilted against your gum line at a 45-degree angle. Brush in small circular movements and ensure all surfaces are brushed several times before moving on. Once finished, brush the surface of your tongue to freshen your breath and rid your mouth of bacteria; avoid rinsing your mouth, and wait for over 30 minutes before eating and drinking again.
- Flossing – designed to remove plaque and food particles that get trapped between your teeth and gum line; floss is useful for getting to the places your toothbrush can’t reach. We suggest flossing at least once a day, before or after you’ve brushed your teeth (for the most effective results do it just before you go to bed).
- Mouthwash – the best brands are alcohol-free and contain fluoride; however it is important to note that you shouldn’t use mouthwash directly after brushing your teeth. Instead, aim to use it at a separate time during the day (possibly after lunch), and make sure you don’t eat or drink for 30 minutes after using it.