Diet and Tooth Decay

Your diet is very important for your well-being. It controls your energy levels, emotional states and your physical health. It is the deciding factor in the creation and prevention of tooth decay.

Your saliva normally exists like most of the other fluids in your body, in a neutral state. That means that they are neither acidic nor alkaline (the opposite of acidic). Bacteria live in your mouth in aggregations called plaque. This plaque is really colonies of microscopic bacteria living on the smooth surfaces of your teeth and in between them. Every time you eat foods that contain sugars and starches (they could be simple fruits and nuts, juices breads and pasta’s, not only chocolates and sweets) the bacteria in your mouth metabolize those sugars and produce acid. This acid then demineralises your teeth (strips them of calcium and phosphate ions). 

How much demineralization that occurs is related to how long the acid is present next to your teeth. When you eat, your mouth becomes acidic for an hour. So frequency of eating then becomes a factor in the production of decay. A person who eats three meals a day will have less decay than one who eats six times a day. 

Thankfully decay exists as an equilibrium state. When your teeth are demineralised by the acid, they then are remineralised by your saliva. So an increased salivary flow can reduce decay (hence the use of chewing gum). 

Decay has been radically reduced through the introduction of systemic fluoride in the water system and the use or fluoride toothpastes. Fluoride in the correct concentration topically (toothpaste) and systemically (water from the tap) has caused a massive reduction in the amount of decay in the community. 

Fluoride affects the crystal packing structure of the enamel on the outside of your teeth. 

Teeth that have grown in a fluoride environment are stronger and less susceptible to decay. 

With the widespread use of bottled water in the community the advantages of water fluoridation are being lessened. There is a greater amount of decay in the community now than there was ten years ago. 

So…if you don’t want to get decay 

Eat well
Don’t eat too much refined processed foods high in sugar. Choose foods wisely and eat a balanced diet. Remember the 5 food groups:
  1. breads, cereals and other grain products.
  2. fruits.
  3. vegetables.
  4. meat, poultry and fish.
  5. milk, cheese and yogurt.
Eat infrequently.
Three square meals a day are better than snacking regardless of what the milky way people tell you.
Brush and floss.
Three times a day if you can stand it. Flossing between your teeth reaches the parts of the tooth the brush cant get too. You will reduce the presence of decay between your teeth and improve your gum health as well.
Use Fluoridated toothpaste.
I don’t advocate one brand over another. Just brush well.
Get regular dental checkups.
Teeth that have decay don’t necessarily hurt. Early detection of decay is crucial. A small filling that may cost you $150 can turn into a Root therapy and crown that could cost you over $3000 in a matter of a few years.