Plaque is the nasty yellowish film often left behind on your teeth at the end of the day. It is removed with brushing and flossing, but it is the symptom of a larger problem – cavity-causing bacteria colonizing your mouth. Plaque is the home of microbes which produce acids which, in turn, attack the enamel on your teeth, causing decay and cavities. The foods we eat also feed the bacteria, so it’s important to be aware of what you’re putting in your mouth, and how it affects your oral health.
The Common Plaque Culprit: Candy
Did you know that not all candies are created equal? Sour, chewy, and hard candies are actually worse for your teeth than chocolate. Sour candies not only contain sugar, they also have acids which contribute to the breakdown of the tooth enamel. Chewy candies stick to the teeth, making them more difficult to remove, even with good brushing and flossing habits. Hard candies, when chewed, may actually crack the enamel, giving the bacteria in the mouth even greater access to continue chipping away at the protective layer.
Chocolate and other “soft” candies don’t crack the enamel of the teeth and are easier to clean away with a thorough brushing and flossing. If you indulge in an occasional sweet treat, be sure to brush thoroughly soon afterward.
Bread and Starches
Candy isn’t the only food that can be harmful to teeth. Bread, cookies, and other simple starches break down into sugars during the digestive process. Those sugars then feed the bacteria, which go right on producing their tooth-attacking acid. Opt instead for whole wheat and other whole grain breads which contain less sugar and more complex starches which are more difficult for acid-producing bacteria to digest.
Soda and Alcohol
Soda, obviously, contains large amounts of sugar. Many sodas also contain acids that can damage teeth. Alcohol and soda share a common trait as well- both dry out the mouth, reducing the amount of saliva present. Saliva helps rinse the teeth of harmful bacteria. When drinking soda, use a straw to bypass the teeth. Alcohol should be closely followed with water to keep the mouth well hydrated. Avoid excess of either beverage and opt instead for plain water as often as possible for healthier teeth.