Snacking, Sipping & Oral Health
By contactus
March 27, 2012
Category: Uncategorized
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The American Dental Association has long recognized the link between quality oral health and a sound nutrition.  The association has continued to recommend that adults and children limit eating and drinking between meals, and when they must snack, give preference to nutritious foods as identified by the US Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines. 

Let’s start with the USDA’s food guide pyramid and dietary guidelines.  The food guide pyramid classifies foods into five major, and one minor, food groups:

          1-breads, cereals and other grains

          2- fruits

          3- vegetables

          4- meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts

          5- milk, cheese and yogurt

          6- fats, oils, and sweets

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The food pyramid is to be used as a general guide to help you customize a healthy diet for yourself and your family.  It is important to eat a variety of foods in order to maintain a well balanced diet.  The USDA’s dietary guidelines encourage consumers to aim for a healthy weight, build a healthy base and choose sensibly. 

We live in a very fast paced society where the overwhelming tendency is shifting towards “eating on the run”.  Although there are many more nutritious options available, many consumers continue to opt for fast food.  The eating habits that we adopt for ourselves transfer very easily to the eating habits of our children and future generations.  These eating patterns and food choices are very important factors that affect how quickly patients of all ages may develop tooth decay.  This occurs due to the sticky film of bacteria, called plaque that constantly forms on our teeth and gums.  When bacteria in this plaque comes in contact with sugar and starches from our food and drink, the bacteria produce acid.  This acid can attack the teeth for 20 minutes or more and can eventually lead to tooth decay.  When consumers have a diet that limits the amount of unnecessary fats, oils and sweets they are eating, they can reduce the amount of acid attacks that their teeth must withstand, and help improve their teeth’s ability to fight off cavities.

Besides monitoring and making appropriate choices regarding what we, and our children, are eating, it is equally important to make healthy decisions when choosing a beverage.  In the past 50 years, the amount of soda, fruit juice and sports drinks those American consumers drink has increased by 500%.  Today, one in every four beverages consumed in America is a soft drink.  It has become clear that soft drinks have displaced other nutritious beverages and foods from the diet. 

These beverages (soda, fruit juice and sports drinks) contain sugar (yes even diet soda) and contain phosphoric acid and/or citric acid.  The sugar present in these beverages causes the bacteria on the plaque to produce acid which can weaken the enamel on our teeth, plus the acids present in these beverages also works to weaken the enamel.  These acids can lead to increased tooth decay and erosion or thinning of the enamel.  Some consumers think they are benefiting from switching to diet sodas, but the sweeteners present in these drinks are also very acidic and will potentially cause the same enamel erosion as a regular, non-diet soda. 

Just as important as limiting the amount of sweet and sugary food and drinks in our diet, it is also important to limit the number of acidic foods and drinks in our diet.  The normal pH of our saliva is around 6.5, which is healthy for our teeth.  When the pH in our saliva and mouth drops below 5.5, the enamel on our teeth begins to dissolve.    The degree to which the enamel erodes depends on a few factors:

          1- how often you drink these acidic beverages

          2- what the pH of the beverage is – the lower the pH the faster the erosion can occur

          3- how long the beverage stays in contact with the enamel

The pH of some of your favorite beverages may surprise you:

          powerade              ph of 2.75                      gatorade                pH of 2.95

          orange juice          pH of 3.5                       apple juice            pH of 3.2

          coca cola/pepsi     pH of 2.5                      tomato juice          pH of 4.1

          propel water          pH of 3.2                       beer                        pH of 4

Some tips to reduce the amount of tooth erosion:

          1- don’t slowly sip on acidic drinks

                   -drink it as quickly as possible to limit the contact time with your teeth

          2- drink acidic beverages through a straw

                   -this can potentially avoid some direct contact with your teeth because

                     you are pushing the drink directly to the back of your mouth

          3- rinse your mouth out after drinking acidic beverages

                   -drink water or milk after the acidic drink to help flush away some of the


          4- don’t brush your teeth right after drinking acidic beverages

                   -the acid in the drinks can erode the enamel, leaving behind softened

                   tooth structure

                   -the calcium in your saliva combined with increasing the pH in your

                   mouth can help harden the soft tooth structure

                   -if you brush right after drinking the acidic beverage, then you could be

                   brushing away the softened tooth structure, thus making it impossible

                   for the damage caused by the acid to be repaired


When it comes to our diets, it is important to maintain well balanced, health diets and consume the sweets and acid beverages and foods in moderation. 

If you have a history of consuming high amounts of acidic foods and beverages, regular visits to your dentist are very important.  There are dental services and products available from your dentist, that can help strengthen enamel that has been weakened due to acid attacks.