We all know we need to clean our teeth twice a day, but how many of us really think about what we eat and drink and how it affects our teeth?
Recent studies have shown that as many as 74% of all British adults have had a tooth removed, and a third of children are starting school with visible signs of tooth decay. These problems are accredited to our diet, as the acids in everyday food and drinks are softening the enamel on our teeth.
Research from toothpaste manufacturers Sensodyne Pronamel discovered that 7 out of 10 of us don’t know that fruit can potentially harm our teeth, or that salad dressing is also damaging to our enamel as well.
And although most of us realise how bad fizzy drinks are for teeth almost half of people surveyed don’t know that some still drinks can also be bad for teeth.
Find out more about tooth decay and what you can do to stop damaging your teeth.
What is tooth decay?
Tooth decay occurs when acid that is found from food and drink comes into contact with teeth and produces plaque, which builds up on your teeth.
If plaque is allowed to build up, it can soften the enamel of a tooth, and after some time the acid will make a cavity (hole) in the tooth.
Other problems can arise from tooth decay, such as gum disease or dental abscesses, which are collections of pus at the end of the teeth or in the gums.
What are acidic foods?
Acidic foods, although not all of them are necessarily unhealthy, cause tooth enamel to wear away, leaving your teeth’s dentin exposed and prone to sensitivity.
Common fruit items such as oranges and grapefruits are as acidic as they are healthy, which is why it’s important to consume them with water to ensure they don’t harm your enamel. Fruit juice also contains a lot of acidic, as well as added sugar.
Other acidic food products which are better to cut down on include:
- Tomato products (ketchup, ketchup, salsa)
- Processed foods
- Fizzy drinks and other sweet beverages
- Sugar (sweets, chocolate, jam)
What can you do to avoid tooth decay?
- Don’t brush your teeth after eating fruit or drinking fruit juice. The acids in fruit soften the enamel on your teeth and make it easier for it to wear away. Ideally, you should clean your teeth before breakfast.
- Follow acidic snacks, like fruit, with a glass of water or milk to wash away as much of the acid as possible
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day, once before breakfast and once before bed
- See your dentist: regular check-ups should make sure that nothing too bad happens to your teeth, because it will be picked up.
How should I change my diet to avoid tooth decay?
It’s not just what you eat and drink that can damage your teeth – it’s how you eat it.
Anita Bean, a registered nutritionist, reveals that some habits that your children have could be doing serious harm to their teeth and making acid erosion worse.
‘Acidic food and drinks, such as fruit, fruit juice, fizzy drinks, some soft drinks, and other food like jam and tomato ketchup are common in kids’ diets. Often it’s how these are eaten that is the problem.’
Anita recommends doing the following to help prevent tooth decay:
- Encourage children to drink acidic drinks through a straw and make
sure it’s placed near the back of the mouth so the drink is directed
away from the teeth
- Peel oranges and give them segments to eat, rather than letting them
suck on quarters
- Replace acidic snacks with foods that are kind to teeth, like yoghurt,
cheese or raw vegetable sticks, such as carrot, celery or cucumber