Nobody likes hearing that they have a cavity, or going in to the dentist’s office for a filling. But if you’re careful about your oral health habits, you can avoid dental decay entirely. Brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing, and avoiding foods and drinks that are high in sugar can all help you avoid cavities. But did you know that snacking often throughout the day could be a contributing factor to your rate of decay — regardless of what, exactly, you’re snacking on?
Snacks are Often Sugary or Starchy
Of course, part of the problem with snacking is that snack foods are often full of ingredients that are harmful to our teeth already. Sugary snacks, such as candy, soda, or cookies, can contribute to decay. Cavity-causing bacteria feed on those sugars, producing acid that wears down your enamel and leaves the soft core of your teeth unprotected.
Unfortunately, starchy snacks are no better. This is because carbohydrates start breaking down into simple sugars as soon as they enter your mouth. Plus, many of those starchy snacks contain added sugar, even if they don’t taste sweet.
More Snacks Means More Attacks
After eating, the acids from your food run rampant in your mouth, doing damage, for about twenty minutes before they manage to be neutralized by your saliva. This means that the more often you eat throughout the day, the more of those twenty-minute attacks your teeth have to go through.
And snacks aren’t just foods, either. Drinking beverages other than water throughout the day can also impact your oral health. Drinks like energy drinks, soda, sports drinks, and even fruit juice are packed with sugars and can hurt your teeth just as much as eating candy throughout the day does. And even seemingly harmless drinks like tea and water with lemon can have an effect on your enamel. Acidic drinks weaken your enamel and make it easier for cavity-causing bacteria to get in.
How to Protect Teeth
If you want to protect your teeth from the negative results of snacking, there are a few things you can do to help. First, of course, is to reduce the number of snacks you have throughout the day. Many people snack not because they’re hungry, but because they’re bored or have formed a habit. If you don’t have snacks at hand, you will be less tempted to eat throughout the day. But if you must snack, it’s a good idea to pick the kinds of foods that won’t stick around in your mouth. Instead of potato chips, candy, and soda, try healthy snacks like celery and carrots, seeds and nuts, and staying hydrated with water instead of other drinks.