While a healthy mouth is often attributed to meticulous brushing, flossing, and rinsing, the types of foods and beverages that we consume can also play an integral role in determining the health of the oral cavity. Different foods contain different types of nutrients, and whether or not these nutrients serve as food for the bacteria that live in the mouth can determine whether or not cavities will be more prevalent. This article will explain the caries process, the mechanism by which bacteria ingest certain sugars and excrete acid onto the teeth, causing cavities. It will also depict foods that are thought to be cariogenic (cavity producing), and foods that have a more beneficial effect on the teeth.
The Caries Process
Thousands of bacteria reside in the oral cavity, and many are not harmful to the teeth. However, several strains, namely Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus acidophilus, are directly linked to the presence of tooth decay. The way that they cause cavities to form on the surfaces of the teeth has much to do with the types of foods that they ingest; foods that they only have access to if they are components of our diets. While good bacteria effectively ward off infection in the oral cavity, they cannot prevent specific types of microorganisms from secreting acids and breaking down enamel: the dense, outer layer of the teeth which protects and keeps them strong when it is in good condition.
Foods that Feed Cariogenic Bacteria
Cavity-causing bacteria thrive off of the sugars in fermentable carbohydrates: long sugar chains that are included in most of the foods we eat. Fermentable carbohydrates can be found in cookies, cakes, potato chips, and many types of bread that are commercially available and frequently ingested. Once the bacteria in the mouth utilize these fermentable carbohydrates as a food source, they secrete acid onto the teeth as a byproduct. Although enamel is a substance which is 96% calcified, the acids secreted by these bacteria effective penetrate through and a small depression, or cavity, forms on the enamel. Once the cavity penetrates through the enamel into the dentin, or the layer under the enamel, it is irreversible and restorative work is necessary. Cavities that extend further toward the pulp are even more serious and consequently, they require more time and money. Brushing and flossing can remove many fermentable carbohydrates from the oral cavity, but reducing the amount that is eaten on a daily basis can also aid in preventing caries.
Some healthy snacks that are alternatives to fermentable carbohydrates include many fruits and vegetables. Additionally, instead of the soft drinks that are offered in vending machines and at restaurants, which contain up to 10 teaspoons of sugar per serving, water is a great alternative. Ingesting these instead of many “convenience” foods such as pastries, candies, chips, and sodas that are available can mean the difference between a healthy mouth and a mouth with frequent incipient decay (cavities that can be reversed). Reducing the risk of dental caries ultimately saves all patients time and money, and, most importantly, allows them to use their natural teeth for an extended amount of time.
For more information about reducing your risk of dental decay and other dental issues, contact your Midland, TX dentist, Dr. Randell W. Bell at Health Centered Dentistry today.
Please call us at 432-218-4389 or fill out the form below to request an appointment.
Muffet / Food Photos / CC BY While a healthy mouth is often attributed to meticulous brushing, flossing, and rinsing, the types of foods and beverages that we consume can also play an integral role in determining the health of the oral cavity. Different foods contain different types of nutrients, and whether or not these […]
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