How what you eat can help reduce the cavities in your teeth.
Everyone needs 3 D’s for their health: Doctor, Dentist and Dietitian! I’m sure everyone understands the importance of doctors. If you’re reading this blog chances are you also understand the importance of dietitians. But how many of you give thought to the impact it would make on your health if you saw your dentist more regularly? What if you were able to get better fitting dentures? What if you took care of the toothache that bothered you? Chances are you’d be eating and enjoying food a whole lot more!
Consider that the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research has found that 5% of older adults have no teeth, 92% have had cavities in their teeth and 23% have untreated decay! I bring this to your attention because we often don’t think about the implications of having poor dental health but it is linked to our daily well-being.
What are cavities and how do I get them? What should I know as an older adult?
Cavities in the teeth result when the strong enamel on your teeth breaks down. A cavity forms when the bacteria in your mouth ferment sugars from the foods you eat and creates acids. Our saliva helps to protect teeth from these acids but over time we can still develop cavities especially if we don’t have good oral hygiene.
Also, older adults are more likely to get cavities because let’s face it…our teeth have been through a lot more slices of birthday cakes than most! Aside from wear and tear older folks are more likely to develop cavities because of other dental conditions like dry mouth, gum disease and gum damage from poorly fitting dentures.
Can what I eat help prevent cavities? What would this look like?
Absolutely! There are 2 groups of foods you should consider—cariogenic foods and cariostatic foods. Cariogenic foods lead to new cavities and even worsen existing cavities. They contain the sugars that mouth bacteria like to feast on. Cariostatic stops new cavities from forming because they buffer against the acids made by bacteria.
At this point you’re probably thinking cariostatic = good and cariogenic = bad! I don’t want you to think that you should stop eating cariogenic foods altogether! I would advise that you:
1) Pair cariogenic foods and cariostatic foods during meals and snacks so that they negate each other.
2) Rinse mouth with water after each meal or chew xylitol gum.
3) Practice good oral hygiene.
|Protein foods (egg, nuts, fish, meat, poultry)
Dairy Foods (cheese, milk, plain yogurt)
Fibrous foods (apple, celery, popcorn)
|Sweets (cookies, candies, cakes)
Salty snacks (crackers, chips, pretzels)
Hot and cold cereals
Breads and pastries
Sweetened beverages (juice, soda, sweet tea)
What does good oral hygiene look like?
1) Brush your teeth 2X per day with fluoride toothpaste once when you wake up and once when you go to bed.
2) Floss at least 1X per day.
3) Visit your dentist for regular cleaning.
Special Thanks to Trinh Le for her assistance with this post.