Timing Is Everything, Even When Enjoying Your Favorite Foods.
By Yvonne DeLoache, DDS
The New Year is a wonderful and exciting time. It is that starting point we need to propel us in a new direction. You may be planning to start an exercise program or embark on an interesting new project. Well, while you are in the mood for change, let me encourage you to think about your smile. We all know the importance of oral hygiene and a good diet yet; in a fast-paced, grab-and-go society it is easy to let the details of proper dental care slip to the back of our minds. We give our teeth a quick brushing, promise ourselves we will floss “later” and off we go for another day, sugar-laced coffee and a sweet roll or bagel in hand. Without realizing it, we have set ourselves up for poor dental health. Our less-than-adequate oral hygiene can lead to gum disease and dental cavities very quickly. These problems are caused by the combination of plaque missed during hurried teeth cleaning and the greatest enemy to our teeth SUGAR. Unfortunately, this wonderful tasting substance is everywhere, from that sweet coffee and breakfast pastry to much of our food throughout the day. A quick look at the ingredients in most packaged foods will reveal sugar in some form, from sugar, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, or malt syrup, to disaccharides, glucitol, galactose, or maltodextrin . Check the ingredients of your favorite foods on your next shopping trip and you may be shocked. The best solution to eliminating sugar from your diet is to eat fresh unprocessed foods that you prepare yourself.
Yet admittedly, this is difficult, and when we eat out, it is clearly impossible. So what can you do? Well there is hope and that is where timing comes in. Let me tell you how cavities form and the role of sugar in the process.
Whenever we eat something containing sugar, the bacteria in our mouths also eat the sugar and produce acid at the highest level for about 30 minutes. The acid production begins to drop off at that point, returning to normal until more sugar is consumed. So that means, if you want to eat something containing sugar, it would be better to eat it in one sitting and not snack on it all through the day. Let’s look at an example:
• Sugary food eaten during 10:00 AM work break, completed at 10:15 AM, acid production remains at the highest level for 30 minutes after completion of snack, Total exposure to acid at greatest production = 45 minutes
• Sugary food eaten during 10:00 AM work break, snack not completed and taken back to your desk, nibbled on until 11:15 AM, acid production remains at the highest level for 30 minutes after completion of snack, Total exposure to acid at greatest production = 1 hour, 45 minutes
Though the amount of food is the same to your body, for your teeth there is a huge difference!
So what’s the big deal about acid in our mouths? Well, acid exposure will eventually weaken the enamel on our teeth. The enamel then flakes away leaving holes in our tooth and bacteria enters these holes, causing tooth decay. Therefore, limiting acid exposure is very important to maintain the integrity of our tooth enamel and thus maintaining our ability to eat, speak properly, and our beautiful smile.
Message: Enjoy your occasional sugary treat, but don’t nibble or sip throughout the day. Constant consumption of sugary foods will cause a continuous high level of acidity in your mouth, risking serious damage to your teeth. Clean your mouth as soon as possible after consuming sugary foods. If you cannot brush, just drink some water. This will dilute the acid and help alleviate some of its damage to your teeth.
About Dr. DeLoache: Originally from Ohio, Dr. Yvonne DeLoache graduated from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. After her residency she moved to Pennsylvania and opened a practice in West Chester. She has been a “hometown, family dentist” ever since. Performing all areas general and cosmetic dentistry, Dr. DeLoache truly enjoys taking care of her patients, getting to know them well, answering their questions, and allaying their fears. Along with her clinical practice she also teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine which allows her to be exposed to the latest in dental treatment and technology. Dr. DeLoache and her husband R. Blake Edmonds, DMD have two grown sons. They are longtime members of The Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli. In her free time,
Dr. DeLoache enjoys reading, writing, painting, and has recently started fly fishing.
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