To prevent cavities and maintain a good healthy diet — what you eat and how often you eat — are important factors. Changes in your mouth start the minute you eat certain foods. Bacteria in the mouth convert sugars from the foods you eat to acids, and it’s the acids that begin to attack the enamel on teeth, starting the decay process. The more often you eat and snack, the more frequently you are exposing your teeth to the cycle of decay.
Mouth-Healthy Foods and Drinks
The best food choices for the health of your mouth include:
- Firm crunchy fruits (such as apples and pears)
- Foods with high water content
Poor food choices include:
- Potato Chips
- Raisins (or other dried fruit)
- Hard Candies and Mints
- Cookies, Pies, Cakes
- French Fries
- Breads, Muffins
Cough drops should only be used when necessary; they will contribute to tooth decay.
The best beverage choices include water (especially fluoridated water), milk and unsweetened tea. Limit your consumption of sugar containing drinks such as
- Soda pop (soft drinks)
- Coffee or tea with sugar
Avoid sipping on sugar containing drinks all day long, because they constantly coat the teeth with sugar and in turn constant decay-causing acids.
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, aspartame (marketed as Equal),), and sucralose (marketed as Splenda).
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.