We generally do not make smart, healthy choices when snacking. Snacking usually occurs at a moment of weakness between meals at a moment of hunger between meals. This often means choosing a sugary snack which can have harmful effects on our dental health. Sugary snacks may taste great and be filling at the moment, but they are poor choices for our dental health and our overall health. Not only will the sugar lead to tooth decay, but it will effect our health negatively in other ways as well. Sugar causes you to “carb crash”, making you feel tired after the sugar high wears off, makes your body need to over produce insulin, dries your mouth out, and can allow us to gain significant amounts of weight if we are not careful. Smart choices are the key if you are to snack between meals.
How Sugars Attack Our Teeth
Our mouths are filled with natural bacteria that reside there all the time. The introduction of sugary and starchy foods into the mouth allows these bacteria to have a source of food. The byproduct of this feeding is the creation of an acidic environment in the mouth. The acids produced are powerful enough to break down the enamel (outer shell of our teeth) on our teeth. This breakdown of enamel is how tooth decay begins. If you simply choose to eat healthy foods, then your chances of exposure to these acids is reduced.
The key is to make smart choices when snacking. Before you grab for a snack, check what is in the food you have chosen. Is it chock full of sugar? If it is, think twice. Another choice would be better for your teeth. And it is important to remember that certain kinds of sweets are more harmful than others. Sweets that are chewy or gooey tend to spend more time sticking to the surface of your teeth. Because sticky snacks stay in your mouth longer than foods that you quickly chew and swallow, they increase the chance for the development of tooth decay.
The time of day that you snack is important also. Do you choose to nibble on sugary snacks at various points of the day, or do you usually just choose a small dessert following dinner? Damaging acids will form in your mouth every time you choose to eat a sugar filled snack. The acids continue to affect your teeth for at least 20 minutes before they are neutralized and can’t do any more harm. So, the more times you eat sugary snacks during the day, the more often you feed bacteria the fuel they need to cause tooth decay.
If you eat sweets, it’s best to eat them as dessert after a main meal instead of several times a day between meals. Whenever you eat sweets — in any meal or snack — brush your teeth well with a fluoride toothpaste afterward. Practice good oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing following snacking will go along way towards helping reduce our risk for tooth decay.
Best Snacks For Good Dental Health
-Fresh fruits and raw vegetables. The fruits can include oranges, tangerines, pineapple, melons, and pears. While the vegetables can include broccoli, tomatoes, celery, cucumbers, and carrots.
-Whole Grains. This can include whole wheat, rye, pumpernickel bagels, baked tortilla chips, pretzels, plain bagels, wheat crackers with cheese, and even some unsweetened cereals.
-Milk and dairy products. This includes milk, cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese.
-Meat, nuts and seeds. This can include fresh turkey, deli meats (like Ham and Roast Beef), sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and other unsweetened nuts.
Tips To Make Snacking Healthy
-Choose sugary foods less often
-Avoid sugary sweets between meals
-Timing Is Key. Avoid sweets between meals. If you do choose to snack between meals get in the habit of brushing and flossing following snacking to keep the acids to a minimum
-Eat a variety of low or non-fat foods from the basic food groups
-Drink plenty of water during and after snacking
-Maintain Good Dental Hygiene. Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste after snacks and meals
Our dental health and overall health are intertwined. Making smart choices can have a positive effect on both our teeth and our bodies. Choose wisely and maintain good dental hygiene by seeing your dentist regularly to avoid issues of tooth decay and to maintain a happy, healthy smile for years to come.