Save your smile by reducing snacks

mighty mouthSave your smile by reducing snacks

By Dr. Jo Jackson

Here is one more reason to keep your hand out of the chip bag — and this one may surprise you. Frequent snacking doesn’t just affect your waistline it can also cause major problems for your teeth, harming both your smile and your overall health.

Snacking or drinking sweet or acidic beverages (even diet soda), frequently throughout the day can lead to painful cavities. Here is another twist, it is not just sugary foods that cause cavities. Even snacks that we think of as healthy, such as bagels, juice, granola bars and raisins, contribute to decay if they are consumed too often.

Most of us don’t realize that teeth need time to rest between exposure to food and drink. Just like your muscles need time to recover after exercising, teeth need time to rest and rebuild in between drinking and eating.

Drinking (other than water) and snacking or ”grazing” frequently during the day keeps food and drink on your teeth for extended periods of time, feeding the germs that cause painful and costly cavities.

Over your lifetime you can save about $2,000 for every cavity prevented. Most adults have around 32 teeth, so preventing tooth decay can add up to real savings.

A recent survey showed that nearly half (47%)of adults in Washington appear to be snacking heavily enough to put their teeth at risk by constantly coating them with food, sugar or acidic drinks like soda, juice, sports drinks or wine.

Here are some tips to reduce the amount of time food has on your teeth:

  • If you have a snack, eat it all at once instead of nibbling over time.
  • Limit sugary and acidic drinks and starchy foods between meals.
  • Drink water, especially fluoridated water, between meals to rinse food and sugar off your teeth.
  • Brush teeth twice a day and floss daily. Flossing cleans about 40 percent of your tooth surfaces.

To learn more about healthy snacking and other steps to prevent cavities, check out a new website called  The MightyMouth.org. The website is part of a campaign lead by Washington Dental Service Foundation to raise awareness about the importance of good oral health and its connection to overall health.

So, this New Year instead of just going to a gym or beauty salon to improve your appearance, resolve to pay attention to your teeth too. Protecting your smile helps you look and feel your best. It’s an easy way to get healthier that’s right under your nose.

Jo Jackson MD, is a Faculty Physician in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Washington

 

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