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Nuts & Bolts

July 2, 2013

Brush up on foods that are good for teeth

When my boys recently had their teeth checked, their dentist warned them that summer is the worst time for cavities. Parental rules relax, allowing more candy and soda into the mix at the same time brushing slackens.

As much as I hate to admit it, I can see this happening in our household. Does anyone else have a tween boy who thinks brushing and showering are a sprint? He has mastered speed, but effectiveness . . . not so much. I'm not sure those teeth are being cleaned as they should.

Tooth decay begins with bacteria that naturally live in the mouth. These bacteria burn sugar in order to thrive and during this process convert sugar into acid. The acid then eats away at a tooth's enamel, which begins the decay and cavity process.

So sugary foods such as candy, soda, sports drinks and ice cream provide fuel for the bacteria, but there is actually a trifecta of criteria that make foods bad for teeth: anything that has sugar or acid or is sticky.

Food-based causes of tooth decay

- Sugary foods fuel bacteria.

- Many children consume their sweet or gummy vitamins after they brush their teeth, so the sugar remains on their teeth all morning.

- Sticky foods such as Skittles, Starburst candies, gummies and dried fruits linger on the teeth, giving the bacteria extra occasion to execute damage.

- Long-lasting fare, such as lollipops, Jolly Ranchers and cough drops, allows the sugar to dawdle in the mouth for a prolonged period.

- Starchy foods such as french fries, white bread and pretzels that easily lodge between teeth are quickly converted to sugar by the pre-digestive saliva.

- Acidic foods and drinks such as soda, citrus and tomatoes eat away the enamel of teeth.

- Chewing on ice can cause tiny fractures in the teeth that over time collect extra bacteria and cause additional breakage.

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