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The truth about diet and oral health

It may seem obvious that what you eat affects your oral health. After all, it comes into direct contact with your teeth. The truth is a little more complex though because food doesn’t enter your digestive system in the same form that it touched your lips.

Not many people realise that digestion begins in the mouth. Saliva breaks down starch into simple sugars like dextrin and maltose. If there are too many of these simple sugars in the mouth, they can lead to cavities. Cavities form when bacteria in the mouth feed on these sugars and excrete acids, which then rot holes in your teeth.

Dr Steven Lin, a famed dental expert, points out the bacteria in your mouth are intended to be beneficial. Their job is to attack agents that can harm your teeth, so they prevent tooth decay rather than cause it. Unfortunately, when they produce excess acid, they become a source of cavities rather than a preventative measure.

Dr Lin’s solution is that we should change our diets, focusing more on complex carbohydrates that won’t be digested in the mouth. This offers less fodder for bacteria, which leads to less acid and consequently, fewer cavities. Complex carbs and raw vegetables also stimulate your mouth to produce more saliva.

Also Read This: What to do if your child has a painful, wobbly tooth

This is important, because saliva washes away the excess sugars and acids, neutralising the pH in the mouth and reducing cavities. Ordinarily, your saliva cleanses your mouth between meals. However, if you’re constantly snacking, the saliva has no time to wash away the acids because it’s too busy digesting starch.

The best kind of diet for your oral health is one that promotes saliva production, gives you mouth lots of resting time for the saliva to do its work, and minimises the amount of acid in your mouth. Raw vegetables and chewy foods achieve all these benefits, while candy, fizzy drinks, and artificial sugars do the opposite.

Apart from eating the right kinds of food, there are other things you can do to boost the health of your teeth. Many fad diets suggest eating up to six smaller meals a day, but this doesn’t give your teeth and tongue resting time. Instead, eat three meals every day with no snacks between. If you must have sweet desserts, make them part of your main meal.

After meals, chew on some sugar-free gum. It cleans your teeth, removing food particles that may be stuck between them. It also pushes your mouth to produce extra saliva, which helps with the cleaning. Best of all, it gives you fresh breath, and you can even burn a calorie or two. Chew the gum for about twenty minutes for best results, and dispose of it correctly.

Finally, drink lots of water. It dilutes the sugars and keeps your cells hydrated, which improves your overall health. In many parts of Australia, tap water is infused with fluoride. This chemical has been proven as a deterrent to tooth decay. Drink the water without boiling though, because boiling it removes the fluoride in the water.

For more information on diet and dental health, call Dental Avenue Maroubra today on 02 9344 8822.

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