Eat to beat tooth decay

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Wednesday, 31 October 2012.
Tagged: healthy eating, healthy lifestyle, sugar, sugary drinks

Eat to beat tooth decay

Despite great improvements in dental health over the last 20 years, dental caries is still estimated to be the most common and most costly health problem for most Western countries including Australia. A healthy diet combined with fluoride and good brushing/flossing habits are the keys to keeping teeth strong and decay free.

I have really 'weak' teeth if the truth be known. As a child, I grew up in an era without fluoride in the tap water and I often used to connive to skip brushing my teeth before bed (including lying to my mother about it - sorry Mum!).

Coupled to an intake of school kid sweets that you sucked for hours and an amalgam-loving dentist who patched heaps of my teeth, I've ended up with lots of dental problems in my adult life. How I wish I'd known all this when I was growing up!

4 tips for eating tooth-friendly foods

Use these 4 food tips to keep teeth free of caries:

1. Watch foods with ‘fermentable' carbohydrate

What this means: bacteria that live in our mouths ferment the carbohydrate and produce acids, which erode away strong tooth enamel. Fermentable carbohydrate can be found in all foods that contain cooked starches or sugars (see below). Restrict these or brush teeth after having them.

Fermentable carbohydrates to go easy on between meals:

  • Sweets and lollies
  • Fruit juice, soft drinks, sports drinks and cordial
  • Sweet and savoury biscuits
  • Cakes, buns and pastries, soft bread
  • Potato crisps and pretzels
  • Dried fruit

2. Limit high acid foods

Soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks and fruit juices are high in acidity and this can erode the tough enamel that coats the tooth surface.

3. Snack less often

Each time we eat or drink, our saliva works to repair damage to tooth enamel caused by acid build up (remineralisation). This process takes two or three hours, so those who graze or constantly snack don't do their teeth any favours.

4. Eat the "decay fighters"

Milk and cheese are known as "anti-decay" foods - not only do they add valuable calcium, they also leave a protective film on teeth that serves to make teeth more resistant to acid attack. Make these foods you snack on.

Chew sugarfree gum

Chewing gum between meals can help fight tooth decay.  Chewing (anything really - even a piece of rubber) stimulates the flow of saliva which bathes the teeth and moves any leftover food away from the teeth and gums.

Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby has the answers! She is an accredited nutritionist, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book Nutrition for Life 2020 Edition is a fresh new update on all the things you've read about or heard in the last year. Think insects, collagen, vegan eating, Keto dieting, vitamin B12, fast food and cafe culture.  It has plenty of colour pictures and is easy to dip in and out of. Grab your copy NOW!