How do I know if a food/drink is healthy or not?
Did you know that dental decay has been ranked the highest diet related disease in Australia in terms of both total costs and health care costs?
Tooth decay occurs when conditions within the mouth in relation to the interactions between plaque, saliva, fluoride and dietary components become unfavourable for oral health.
NOT SO TOOTH FRIENDLY FOODS AND DRINKS
What’s the worst food or drinks for my teeth? Refined carbohydrates. In particular, refined sucrose. Coming in second is baked starch.
Refined carbohydrates include white flour, white bread, white rice, pastries, pastas, breakfast cereals, sugar-sweetened drinks (soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit juices).
We also want to think about added sugar in the diet. This increases the potential of tooth decay. Food and drinks with added sugar are things like lollies, cakes and pastries. But we also want to think about foods and drinks that we may think are healthier options like certain yogurts or fruit juices.
Cheese after a sugary snack has actually been shown to keep the pH of the mouth closer to neutral, whereas having a sugary food or drink drops the pH of the mouth. When the pH of the mouth has been dropped for an extended period of time, this can lead to mineral loss of the tooth. We can also do other things to promote saliva and increase the pH of the mouth quicker, like rinsing with water after meals or having sugar free chewing gum (two pieces for 15 mins).
What we also want to think about is the texture of the food. The sticky, retentive type of foods that stick to the tooth surface is more likely to be harmful to our teeth (E.g., lollies or dried fruits).
- Are we having these foods with meals or in-between meal time?
- Is it after toothbrushing before we go to bed?
- During physical activity when our saliva is limited?
- How often are we having these? Only occasionally or every day?
When we have these foods or drinks during meal time, we have more saliva, therefore keeping the pH of the mouth closer to neutral. We want to try and limit snacking throughout the day.
We never want to have any foods or drinks besides water before bed. One reason is because we have limited saliva when we sleep (which greatly helps to prevent tooth decay and gum diseases). This is similar to when we do physical activity, our saliva is also reduced during this time.
We want to limit the amount of sugary or acidic foods and drinks we have throughout the day. The longer we keep the pH of our mouth low, the more likely we are to have tooth demineralisation. Therefore, if we think about a soft drink or juice, it’s better to have it during a meal, rather than sip on it throughout the day.
Some other acidic things in the diet which can lead to dental decay as well as dental erosion can be:
- Soft drink,
- Most juices
- Sports drinks
- Beer/ wine
- Energy drinks
- Vitamin C tablets
- Vitamin waters
TOOTH FRIENDLY FOODS AND DRINKS
Fresh foods, more natural and less processed. We want to include foods that are high in nutrients and fiber.
- Wholegrains (wholemeal bread, brown rice, quinoa, oats)
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Fruit (naturally sweet)
- Calcium-rich foods (yogurt with no added sugar and cheese)
- Lean meat, eggs and fish
Naturally occurring sugars in fruit and vegetables are not as bad in regards to tooth decay. Certain fruits and vegetables are better than others. These include:
- Carrots, celery and leafy greens
- Apples, berries
Try and limit refined carbohydrates in the diet, but you don’t have to cut them out completely. We can have them in moderation.
Got any questions? Let us know.