To prevent cavities and maintain good oral health, your diet — what you eat and how often you eat — are important factors. Changes in your mouth start as soon as you eat certain foods. Bacteria in the mouth convert the food you eat into acids, and it’s the acids that begin to attack the enamel on teeth, starting the decaying process.
Mouth Healthy Foods and Drinks
The best mouth healthy foods include cheeses, chicken or other meats, and nuts. These foods are thought to protect tooth enamel by providing the calcium and phosphorus needed in the mineralization of teeth (a natural process by which minerals are redeposited in tooth enamel after being removed by acids).
Other good food choices include firm fruits (for example, apples and pears) and vegetables. These foods have a high water content, which dilutes the effects of the sugars they contain, and stimulate the flow of saliva (which helps protect against decay by washing away food particles and buffering acid).
Acidic foods, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, and lemons, should be eaten as part of a larger meal to minimize the acid from them.
Sugar Substitutes and Sugar-Free Products
Sugar substitutes are available that look and taste like sugar; however, they are not digested the same way as sugar, so they don’t “feed” the bacteria in the mouth and therefore don’t produce decay-causing acids. They include: erythritol, isomalt, sorbitol, and mannitol. Other sugar substitutes that are available in the U.S. include saccharin, advantame, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, Neotame, and sucralose.Sugarless or sugar-free food sometimes simply means that no sugar was added to the foods during processing. However, this does not mean that the foods do not contain other natural sweeteners, such as honey, molasses, evaporated cane sugar, fructose, barley malt, or rice syrup. These natural sweeteners contain the same number of calories as sugar and can be just as harmful to teeth.
To determine if the sugarless or sugar-free foods you buy contain natural sweeteners, examine the ingredients label. Words that end in ‘-ose’ (like sucrose and fructose) usually indicate the presence of a natural sweetener. On the label, look under sugars or carbohydrates.
Try to include a wide variety of mouth healthy food throughout your day. And as always, practice a good dental hygiene routine daily! Don’t forget to visit your dentist regularly for checkups as well for your best overall oral health!