WE’VE ALL HEARD THE SAYING “YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT.” Surprisingly, it’s actually quite true—especially when it comes to your teeth and gums.
When you eat or drink sugary and starchy foods you are also feeding the plaque in your mouth. What you choose to eat, or not eat, has a huge affect on your teeth.
Here at Lilly Family Dentistry you hear us say the word “plaque” all the time, and although most of our patients understand that it’s something we want to avoid, they don’t really know what it is.
The best way to understand plaque is to think of it as a thin, invisible film of sticky bacteria and other unfriendly materials that coats the surfaces of your teeth. When sugars and starches come in contact with plaque, an acid is created that can attack your teeth for up to 20 minutes after you finish eating! Repeated attacks can break down tooth enamel, which can lead to cavities, decay, and gum disease.
So… How do we best avoid plaque? Here are some recommendations from Drs. Kevin and Jane Lilly about the effects of different foods:
The “Good Guys”
- Fruits and Vegetables: These high-fiber content foods stimulate saliva flow and defend against cavities and gum disease. Saliva is your best natural defense.
- Dairy: Cheeses, milk, plain yogurt and other dairy products are more good saliva generators. The calcium in these products also helps put minerals back in your teeth.
- Foods With Fluoride: Fluoridated water and any product made with that water is good for your teeth (as long as it doesn’t contain sugar).
- Sugarless Chewing Gum: Gum is another great saliva generator, and it also helps remove leftover food from your mouth.
- Licorice Root: Researches at the University of California, Los Angeles found that this herb contains compounds that inhibit the growth of plaque.
The “Bad Guys”
- Sugar and Sweets That Stick To Your Teeth: We understand that treats aren’t easy to give up completely, so we recommend choosing the sweets that clear out of your mouth quickly. This means lollipops, cough drops, and caramels aren’t your best bet. However, chocolate washes out quickly because its sugars are coated in fat.
- Starchy Foods: Starches like bread and potato chips get stuck in your teeth, and bacteria love to feed on carbohydrates.
- Carbonated Soft Drinks and Sports Drinks: These drinks contain A LOT of sugar as well as acids that erode tooth enamel.
- Other Sugary Drinks: High sugar levels promote tooth decay.
- Lemons: Lemons are okay to eat, but don’t suck on them—they also contain acids that will erode the enamel of your teeth.
Be smart about what you eat—we promise it will pay off! And since avoiding plaque altogether is impossible, don’t forget to schedule your regular dental appointments with us so we can help brighten your smile and keep your teeth healthy for life!