By: Dr. Tom Swanlund
It is well known that one of the main factors that encourages tooth decay is sugar. Many people try to limit their intake of sugar, but did you know many carbohydrates that we snack on can also raise your risk of developing a cavity?
Certain types of carbohydrates can also increase the chance of tooth decay because as they are chewed they stick onto and in between the teeth where bacteria waits to digest them. Some carbohydrates are better than others. Those carbohydrates that are unrefined like fruits, vegetables and whole wheat/grain products are not as likely to cause decay as refined carbohydrates. Unrefined carbohydrates are more likely to be complex molecules which are harder for the oral bacteria to breakdown.
Unlike unrefined carbohydrates, refined carbohydrates are those that are broken down easily in the mouth by bacteria which in turn causes increased acid production. Refined carbs may include; white bread, rice cakes, white rice, pancakes, waffles, pasta, crackers, granola bars, potato chips and cereals.
Tooth decay needs a few factors in order for it to commence, sugar/refined carbohydrates + cavity-causing bacteria= drop in pH which can initiate the breakdown of the tooth. This equation is the total sum of the tooth decay process.
There are a few superfoods and beverages that can help prevent tooth decay. It is recommended to include these when snacking between meals as they may actually help prevent tooth decay.
Cheese- The fat content of many cheeses provides an invisible fat barrier on the teeth and prevents penetration of cavity-causing acid. As well, the calcium content helps to buffer the mouth and chewing hard cheese may stimulate salivary flow. Hard cheeses are best such as cheddar, Monterey Jack and Mozzarella.
Fruits and Vegetables- The majority of fruits are complex unrefined carbohydrates. The crunch of most produce can help stimulate saliva which buffers the mouth and neutralizes pH. Good choices are apples, carrots, and celery. Avoid dried fruits for snacks as they can stick to the teeth and may raise pH.
Tea- Contains catechins and polyphenols, which can inhibit cavity-causing bacterial growth. As well, drinking tea may help wash sticky food out of the teeth and neutralize the oral pH.
Water- Naturally washes food from the mouth and buffers the pH of the mouth. If water contains fluoride, it is even more beneficial as fluoride can help strengthen teeth and remineralize the tooth structure. In many areas water is non-fluoridated so you will not reap the benefits of fluoride. If you drink bottled water, Nestle is one of the few that have fluoride in it.
Dark Chocolate- High quality dark chocolate may actually help prevent decay. Theobromine, a content of dark chocolate is antibacterial and can actually destroy certain cavity-causing bacteria.
As you can see these types of superfoods can help prevent decay. Eating these foods on a regular basis may help minimize your chance of developing cavities.