Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day … so many holidays and so many goodies, with adults often indulging in sweet treats as much as children! Yet, it’s not necessarily an occasional indulgence that takes its worst toll on adult tooth enamel.
Plaque, which is a sticky film of bacteria in the mouth, is continually forming on teeth and gums. When these bacteria come in contact with sugar or starch, they produce an acid that attacks teeth for 20 minutes or longer. Repeated attacks can expose tooth enamel to decay. Cough drops, hard candy and breath mints that linger in the mouth subject teeth to acid attacks for the duration the product is in the mouth. Sweet beverages are equally as harmful. Sipping cola or sweet tea over an extended time creates the same effect.
Plus, the stickier things are, the more difficult it is for saliva to cleanse the sugar out of the mouth. For example, a piece of hard butterscotch candy that sticks to your teeth can be more harmful than a chocolate bar that is more easily rinsed out of the mouth through saliva.
How do you enjoy these treats and minimize harm to your teeth? First, try to treat yourself to these items along with mealtime. Saliva production increases during meals and helps to neutralize acid production and rinse the mouth. Another tip is to chew sugarless gum after you indulge if brushing your teeth is not possible. Sugarless gum increases saliva flow to wash away decay-producing acid.
Drinking lots of water, particularly fluoridated water, is another good way to help prevent tooth decay. And, of course, stay committed to your brushing and flossing routine at home and keep your regularly scheduled hygiene exams and cleanings. These are easy, inexpensive ways to prevent problems from occurring in the first place or catch those at their earliest stages, which minimizes treatment needs.
Follow these tips and you’ll still be able to enjoy occasional sweet treats and have a smile that shows you also indulge in good oral health!