Can a Healthy Diet Affect Our Teeth?
The bacteria that cause cavities love an environment saturated with sugar and a low pH (acidic). It’s as simple as that. In an effort to be good to our teeth, many of us will avoid candy and instead reach for a healthy granola bar.
So, even with a healthy diet, a person shouldn’t get cavities, right? Not quite. Some healthy foods can be acidic or saturated with hidden sugars. Take ketchup or pasta sauce, for instance. Neither of them tastes very sweet, but they both are high in sugar levels and contain tomatoes, which are acidic. A spaghetti squash with pasta sauce is a healthier alternative to its gluten version, but that sauce can damage your teeth.
Dried fruit, another healthy food, is high in natural sugars and loves to stick in the grooves of the teeth, allowing the bacteria that cause cavities to bathe in their happy place.
Popular condiments or salad dressings containing vinegar or apple cider vinegar are a healthier alternative than fat-laden, sugary ones, but can still damage teeth because of the acidity.
Let’s examine popular healthy drinks. Lemon water is seen everywhere and is a refreshing healthy alternative. Almost no sugar, and alkaline once in the body. Sounds like a win. But lemon is highly acidic on its own, even more acidic than a Cherry Coke. So, be careful with exposure to your teeth.
Kombucha, a fermented black or green tea high in beneficial probiotics, tastes great and is relatively low in sugar, but is in fact acidic due to its natural properties and carbonation.
Speaking of carbonation, let’s look at sparkling mineral water; it has absolutely no sugar and is high in natural minerals. However, the carbonation process produces carbonic acid, which lowers the pH and is thus capable of damaging teeth.
So, how do we decrease the damage to our teeth? The simple answer is to do the following:
- Avoid the source completely (not easy if it does our body good).
- Reduce the exposure time—consume in one sitting instead of sipping or nibbling over several hours.
- Allow your mouth to neutralize and stay neutral until the next meal.
Our saliva is our way of neutralizing the acidic levels in our mouths. This process can take up to 30 minutes. A nice rinse with regular water is a great way to help neutralize acidity more quickly. Swishing with baking soda is another great way to get the acid levels to neutral, or even alkaline, but not as simple as plain water. Even a piece of sugar-free xylitol gum is a great way to grab all the debris stuck in the grooves of teeth and allow more saliva to flush the acids away. Try to avoid brushing the teeth immediately after an acidic meal. The teeth are in a “softer” state when exposed to acid, allowing abrasion to occur.
So, the next time you’re grocery shopping, remember that what may be healthy for your body can be damaging to your teeth.
For more information, contact your local holistic dentist.
Jason Jones, DMD, attended Pennsylvania State University for his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-medicine and received his doctorate degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine. He received extensive post-graduate training at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), while working at the Los Angeles VA Hospital. Jones also served in the U.S. Navy for six years. For more information on his practice and holistic services, call 480-585-1612 or visit PureSmilesAZ.com.