The snow is starting to melt and spring seems to be just around the corner. This time of year can be a bit depressing because we desperately want the gray, cloudy skies to be replaced by some bright flowers. A good way to get your mind off the weather is by checking in with your New Year’s Resolutions. Most people seem to gain some energy and excitement from setting new goals and trying to improve their health and lifestyle. However, if you’re like the rest of us, you’ve already forgotten about the goals you so optimistically set in January, whether it was losing a few pounds or traveling someplace new. Well, it’s never too late to set some new goals that are very achievable. Here’s a unique resolution that most people probably don’t think of: Taking better care of your teeth!
Let’s start off by talking about some of the things that can harm your teeth. To begin with, our mouths are full of bacteria. It’s not your fault, although next time you drop a Pringles, perhaps don’t play the “five-second rule” game. The bacteria aren’t innately harmful, but they can become that way. The particular type of bacteria that causes cavities are called Streptococcus mutans. They thrive off of sugars and starches. That’s basically everything we put into our mouths. The S. mutans devour the sugars and starches and secrete acid. Disgusting, right? That acid then hangs around our teeth and, if left there, will slowly eat away at our enamel, the hard outer layer of teeth. The enamel becomes weakened, and tiny holes will start to form. Those are cavities. The bacteria will continue to eat away at your tooth and the hole will become larger until the decay is removed and a filling is placed there. Sometimes, decay can lead to root canals and crowns. If the decay is extensive enough and the tooth is not restorable, the tooth may even have to be removed.
So what foods have sugars and starches in them? There’s the obvious ones like soda, energy drinks, and candy. But what about pasta, potatoes, and rice? Those, too, contain the dreaded food for the Streptococcus mutans. Click on the website here to see a list. It contains basically every food you’ve ever eaten. So if this is all true, how come most of us aren’t running around with rampantly decaying teeth? And how, then, do we stop our teeth from getting out-of-control cavities?
For that, we have our saliva and dental hygiene habits to thank. Our saliva helps wash away some of the acid and neutralize our mouths. However, it can only do so much. If we are constantly snacking and putting sugar into our mouths, our saliva can’t keep up. That is one of the biggest reasons we need to brush and floss every day. The acid will be brushed away and doesn’t have as much of a chance to turn into plaque and cavitate our teeth. Water is also very important. Instead of sipping at soda every day, sipping at water is much healthier for your teeth and the rest of your body! If you drink soda all day long, your teeth are constantly bombarded with sugars the bacteria eat. They will be secreting acid all day long! We’re not saying you shouldn’t have desserts now and then, but limiting the amount of time your teeth are exposed to sugars and starches is what’s important. A dentist once said that it was healthier for your teeth to drink a whole 2 liter bottle of Coke all at once than to sip at it for hours throughout the day. Now, we definitely don’t recommend you sit down and drink that much soda, but hopefully you get the idea.
So, what do we do about all this? Do we avoid food for the rest of our lives for fear of cavities? Of course not. That would not be the best way to help our pre-spring depression. Instead, we can limit our intake of sugary drinks and snacks. Try eating your snacks around your meal times, and get into a habit of reaching for water rather than soda or energy drinks. Not only is this much healthier for your teeth, but it will be healthier for your body, and you just might lose those few extra pounds that are on your Resolutions.
Well, now you know. It’s not entirely your fault that you get cavities; you can blame that on the Streptococcus mutans. But it is your job to remember to brush twice a day, floss at least once a day, and visit your dental professionals for cleanings twice a year.
That way, if there are any cavities starting, we can catch them before you even know they’re there!
This year, resolve to take better care of your teeth. Resolve to snack less and drink more water. Your teeth will thank you by staying healthy and chewing your food for the rest of your life.
Check out the short video below for a visualization of how cavities form.