Cavity Prevention and Diet, Part 3
Frequency of Sugar intake
I have been writing about the important role diet plays in oral health. I believe sugar intake is a huge, not-talked-about-enough topic. Now, one soda is not going to dissolve a tooth. A soda a day for a year is also not going to cause a problem. Your teeth are strong. They can rebound from this quick acid attack. The problem starts when there is a higher-than-desirable frequency of sugar intake. One soda, finished within fifteen minutes is not an issue. One soda, sipped for four hours IS an issue, and if done daily, will cause cavities. The same is true of all dietary carbohydrates. One piece of birthday cake will not cause a cavity. One piece of birthday cake eaten one bite at a time over the course of a day will, eventually, cause an issue. Try to limit the frequency of carbohydrate snacking to two times a day and finish that carbohydrate within ten minutes (examples of high carbohydrate snacks include soda, juice, crackers, toast, chips, candy bars and cereal). If you look at the nutrition label and a food item doesn’t have any fat or protein, it is almost certainly a high carbohydrate food.
Daily Fluoride and Hydration
Even with monitoring and altering carbohydrate consumption, some people will still have trouble keeping cavities at bay. Usually this is a result of a dry mouth. Many things can cause a dry mouth, but often it is a result of medications. Medications for allergies, depression, pain management, anxiety, and blood pressure are among the most notorious for causing a dry mouth. When the mouth is dry, there is no saliva present to dilute the acids that result when you eat carbohydrates. As a result, the acid is very concentrated and the destruction from that acid is at its maximum. Drinking water while eating and in between meals helps to dilute the acids and also dislodge food particles that stick to and in between teeth. You should always always drink water during and after snacking.
Fluoride is equally important. If the typical human diet were different, we wouldn’t need fluoride. If pasta, crackers, juice, popsicles, and cake didn’t exist, there wouldn’t be a need for us to take a drug that remineralizes the teeth. Unfortunately, sugar consumption is prevalent all over the world so we need all the help we can get if we are going to make it to old age with all of our teeth. The fluoride ion is a naturally occurring mineral that is present in soil and water. In some places, fluoride is more prevalent in the water systems. Here in Hillsborough County, we add fluoride to the water because ithe water is naturally on the low end of the spectrum for fluoride content. Fluoride in the water enters our system when we are babies and makes our teeth less susceptible to acid attack. The only time that fluoride does this is when our teeth are forming. The permanent teeth are forming enamel from the time we are 3 months old to the time we are about 10 years old. This means during this time, fluoridated water is very important. After the age of 10, fluoridated water has very little effect on the hardness of the teeth. This is the reason it is important to use fluoridated toothpaste. After the teeth have completely formed, the only way they can get stronger is by topical fluoride application (or applied to the tooth) as opposed to systemic application (swallowed and incorporated into the full/deep structure of the teeth).
Most toothpastes contain fluoride, generally in the form of sodium fluoride or stannous fluoride. You can find toothpastes without fluoride, but I would not recommend using them unless you practice a very low carbohydrate lifestyle.
I am always available for a “no cavity consultation”. I love to talk about prevention and empower my patients with the tools to have great dental checkups. Never be afraid to ask for advice, I’ll pop my soap box out and we’ll have a discussion!