Prevention: The key to dental success
Like anything, it is easier to maintain healthy teeth and gums than repair the damage caused by disease.
Boats left in water grow barnacles, cars not serviced break down and splinters not removed from fingers fester and become infected.
The signs of a healthy mouth include fresh breath, pink gums, plaque free teeth and enough teeth to eat and chew effectively. Healthy mouths also require a healthy diet.
Healthy teeth not only last longer, they help maintain your overall health. Brushing and flossing twice daily, together with regular dental visits help prevent problems before they become painful and complicated to treat. Healthy gums should not bleed. In the same way as a splinter causes a finger to become red and inflamed, plaque causes gums to bleed. Daily removal of plaque will help prevent long term gum disease and tooth loss.
Sugar and Tooth Decay
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that most adults and children consume more sugar than is recommended for a healthy balanced diet.
Some research would suggest that our current consumption of “added sugars” is equivalent to 26 teaspoons of sugar a day.
Tooth decay is caused by bacteria in our mouths. When we consume sugary foods and drinks, the bacteria will use the sugar to produce acid. It is this acid that dissolves the teeth causing cavities.
Sugars, both natural and processed are used the same way by these bacteria to produce tooth decay.
The longer a sugary food is in contact with a tooth, the more damage is likely to be caused. Regular snacking and “grazing” will increase the risk of tooth decay as the teeth are bathed in acid for longer periods of time.
The duration of food in the mouth is the most critical factor leading to tooth decay. Acid produced by bacteria will last approximately 20 minutes before being neutralised by saliva.
Many foods that are believed to be a healthy snack may actually be causing decay. Foods such as sultanas, dried fruit, health and muesli bars, may lead to dental decay. Cooked starches such as potato chips, crackers and breads may in fact take a longer time to clear from the mouth, leading to a risk of tooth decay.
Foods containing sugars and starch are best consumed as part of a meal rather than a snack to minimise the risk of decay.
Sipping frozen juice bottles, although refreshing, will also prolong the food source for decay causing bacteria. Water remains the best option for a refreshing drink.
Cheeses such as cheddar, Swiss and mozzarella have been shown to stimulate the flow of saliva, thus clearing the mouth of food debris while at the same time acting as a buffer by neutralising the acid produced. Calcium and phosphate ions found in cheese also help promote remineralisation of the tooth enamel.
Drinking or rinsing your mouth with water following meals, is an effective way to remove food debris and help neutralise acid produced by decay causing bacteria. Daily brushing and flossing remains the best way to reduce the risk of dental decay.
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