Prevention first Blog – 3

Diet, food & Cavities Part II

Diet, Food and Cavities Part II

Our Prevention first blog continues exploring ways to prevent caries and other dental problems in your child. Previously we talked about how acidic food plays a part in caries formation. Here we will explore nature of diet.  In dental terminology we classify food into 2 simplistic categories (1)tooth protective, those that do not cause harm in normal consumption, and (2) tooth destructive, those that can cause harm when used in normal consumption. Food containing complex carbohydrates are teeth protective but not those containing simple carbohydrates such as sugar. Most parent may want to flavor the water with a little bit of juice(sugar) in the sippy cup. If the child takes a long time to finish the flavored water, it creates a two fold problem.  Juice changes the PH of water to acidic, making it harmful for the enamel and the long exposure deepens this exposure. Simply speaking here, the duration of sugary consumption also matters. Other variable is frequency of consumption. If one keeps snacking every 2-3 hours, the Ph balance of mouth in unable to regain its healthy neutral status of 7( previous article). When the local environment of mouth stays acidic (below 7) over a period of time, an event like cavity to occur on multiple teeth is quite plausible.


We all know by now healthy fruits and vegetables are good for health, this applies for dental health too. Chewing on fibrous fruits (complex carbohydrates) is better than drinking processed juice from the market.  Chewing produces more saliva to naturally wash off food from the table of the teeth.  Sugar free gums also produce more saliva.  Xylitol containing gums are teeth protective. The only caveat being, it may make you prone to TMJ issues or aggravate it. Chewing gum also facilitates more air swallowing thereby leading to bloating feeling. Weigh your pros and cons when making choices. A diet high in calcium and phosphates are tooth protective. Eat more cheese, milk, protein rich foods like meat, poultry, beans, eggs.  Unsweetened Cocoa, unsweetened tea & coffee are tooth protective too.  Cocoa powder(unroasted kind) is tooth protective and chocolates with higher percentage of cocoa is generally healthier. Substitute honey in tea instead, honey is made of complex carbohydrates.

Food that are tooth destructive would be all hard candies, sticky/ gummy cadies, raisins, lollipops, bread, cakes, cookies etc.  Drinks such as Gatorade, energy drinks and flavored waters have come under scrutiny for their high sugar content and preservatives that changes the Ph balance of these drinks.  Choose water, its mostly free!  If possible eat a healthy meal and finish by drinking water to naturally cleanse your mouth.

Give some thought to change in lifestyle by considering the number of times that one intends to eat throughout the day. Pair healthy with unhealthy(sweet) food, instead of as a snack. It is considered as 1 exposure of sugar vs 2 exposures of sugar if taken separately. Consider a healthy snack of fruit, for example an apple to stimulate more saliva and still get its natural sweetness.  Small steps will go a long way in building discipline throughout life.

In next article we will review bacterial makeup in the mouth and possibility of vaccine to prevent caries.

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