Dental decay can be caused by many things:
Acids on teeth: When people consume carbohydrates, acids are released that can damage teeth. The more often people eat carb-containing foods, the greater the potential damage to tooth enamel. In other words, frequency of exposure to carb-containing foods is worse than amount of exposure. Each exposure causes a 20-minute acid attack that may cause tooth decay.
Food characteristics: “Sticky” foods, or cooked starches, have the tendency to stick to teeth, even though they are not necessarily sticky in nature. For example, chips and crackers fall into this category.
Slow-dissolving foods: Foods that take a long time to dissolve and therefore remain in the mouth for a long period of time can cause acids to destroy enamel. Again, this is slightly counter-intuitive, as cookies and granola bars fall into this category.
Meal time: When you eat foods as part of a meal, rather than consume them separately, it produces less acid. Your saliva production increases when you eat a meal, and this neutralizes acid production and clears food from the mouth. Additionally, water, especially tap water or bottled water with added fluoride, neutralizes acids, strengthens enamel and washes food out of the mouth.
Promoting good oral health is a very important part of overall health. Periodontal disease is linked to several health issues, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke. Tooth decay can be prevented with good oral hygiene, which includes:
Using fluoride toothpastes
Drinking water containing fluoride
Receiving regular dental care for prevention and treatment
Eating limited amounts of sugary foods
Brushing and flossing daily to remove plaque
For more information, please contact the Logan County Cooperative Extension Service.