Recent research by the British Dental Health Foundation has shown that two thirds of people in the UK tend to snack throughout the day as opposed to having three regular meals. It’s thought this constant snacking could be holding back improvements in oral health, and the reason why snacking is so bad is quite straightforward.
Dental Plaque and Its Role in Your Oral Health
Everyone’s mouth has plaque bacteria, and these adhere to the surface of your teeth and gums forming a sticky layer of dental plaque. This layer begins building up within just an hour of cleaning your teeth so it’s a constant problem. The plaque bacteria contained within this layer use particles of leftover food and drink for energy, but produce toxins and acid as a by-product.
This means your mouth becomes more acidic every time you eat or drink something containing large amounts of sugar or carbohydrates, and it takes up to an hour for the pH levels to return to normal. During this time the acid attacks your tooth enamel, causing it to weaken and soften, increasing its susceptibility towards tooth decay. The toxins produced by dental plaque irritate and inflame your gum tissue, increasing the risk of gum disease.
If you stick to eating three regular meals a day then this increase in acidity isn’t such a problem, but if you constantly snack in your mouth will remain acidic for longer periods of time, something that could potentially cause long-term damage to your teeth.
Choosing a Healthier Diet for Your Teeth and Gums
Most people visiting Leeds City Dentalcare for a check-up with Dr David Brown or another of our dentists are all too well aware of the need to brush twice a day and to floss once a day, but not everyone realises the role diet plays in oral health. If your diet is poor then it is likely to negatively affect your general health and your teeth and gums.
If snacking in between meals is something that sounds familiar then you may want to modify your choice of snacks to help protect your oral hygiene. Resisting foods that are high in sugar or carbohydrates, or which are likely to stick to teeth for long periods of time will help. For example, sticky sweets such as toffees are worse than chocolate, as this sweet treat will at least melt easily. Crisps are another problem snack, as they can easily get stuck in between your teeth, increasing the length of time your mouth remains exposed to acids.
Healthier choices include crunchy vegetables that have a high water content and which contain large amounts of fibre as these will have a slight cleansing effect on your teeth, and low-fat dairy products that don’t contain lots of sugar, for instance a small piece of cheese. Acidic fruits should be eaten in moderation, as should dried fruits, as although these are often considered healthy, they do have a tendency to stick to your teeth so you may find yourself enjoying them some hours later.
Regular check-ups with our dentist in Leeds are always important, as this will enable us to see if you have any signs of damage that could have been caused by acid erosion. Our staff at Leeds City Dentalcare can also give you lots of advice on how to look after your teeth, and can suggest improvements that could help your oral health.