fruits and vegetables

How Snacking Can Affect Your Oral Health

Following a healthy and nutritious diet plays a vital role in maintaining an optimal level of health and that includes the health of your teeth and gums. However, it is important to understand that it’s not only what you eat and drink, but also how often. Dr Tony Heilberg Bayside Family Dental Practice has a long-standing reputation for providing high quality dental care to Melbourne families. Studies have shown that frequent snacking or grazing, especially on high sugar snack foods, is a major source of tooth decay. So before you reach for the stash of treats in your desk drawer or get up and make yourself another cup of tea, let’s explore how frequent snacking could be damaging your teeth and a few tips to help you select smarter snacks when the cravings take hold.

Eating and Drinking Impacts the pH Levels in the Mouth

pH is a scale used to determine how acidic or alkaline something is. The scale goes from 0 to 14 with 7 considered neutral.

  • A pH of below 7 is acidic
  • A pH of above 7 is more alkaline

Whenever we consume food or drinks, the mouth becomes more acidic, this is due to the body’s natural digestion process. Bacteria in the mouth break down sugars and starches, lowering the pH levels. While it may only take just a couple of seconds for the mouth to become acidic, it takes at least 20 minutes for the pH levels to neutralize after food and beverage consumption. It’s important to keep in mind that this process occurs whether you consume a complete meal or a single biscuit, and it evens happen while drinking most beverages, except water.

What Happens When the Mouth is Constantly Acidic?

Snacking continuously throughout the day means your mouth is mostly in an acidic environment. There is little chance for the mouth to return to a neutral pH, so the acid has more chance to attack the enamel of the teeth causing it to weaken. This can lead to tooth decay, the formation of cavities and an increased risk of dental disease.

Smart Snacking for Health Teeth

To keep your teeth in the best shape possible, limit snacks between meals and select healthy options when you do open the fridge or pantry. Avoid snack foods that are high in sugar, sodium, unhealthy fats and starches as these will not only contribute to the production of plaque and increase acid within the mouth, over time they can cause many other dental health concerns, as well as cause damage to your overall health and wellbeing.

  • Crunchy raw vegetables (carrots, celery, cucumbers, green peppers and leafy greens) are some of the best snacks for oral health. These are high in water content which helps to dilute natural sugars.
  • Dairy products such as milk and cheese are high in phosphorus which works to keep the enamel strong and remove plaque from the surface of the teeth. Diary is also high in calcium which is vital for strong teeth and bones.
  • High fibre fruits such as apples and pears can help to clean your teeth as you chew, scraping away bad bacteria and food debris from your teeth.
  • Nuts are naturally low in sugar, high in good fats and don’t get stuck in the deep grooves of the teeth.
  • Be mindful of certain fruits as they can be high in sugars and limit citrus fruits as they are high in acids.

Other Ways to Protect Your Teeth

If you do snack or graze, even on the healthy options listen above, it is recommended that you:

  • Rinse well with water afterwards
  • Chew sugar-free gum to stimulate your saliva and clear food debris
  • Wait at least 30 minutes before brushing, as the acid can damage the teeth if brushed too soon.
  • Maintain good oral hygiene practices – brushing at least twice a day using a fluoride-containing toothpaste, daily flossing and regular check-ups with your dental professional.

Visit Your Local Bayside Family Dental Clinic for More Information

The friendly bayside dentists at Dr Tony Heilberg Dentistry are here to help with any advice you need to keep your smile brighter and whiter. During your next appointment, we can discuss snack choices and the impact they can have on your overall dental health. Get in touch with us to make an appointment by calling (03) 9583 2233 or request an appointment online.