Nutrition & Your Dental Health

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How does the food you eat cause tooth decay?
When you eat, food passes through your mouth. Here it meets the germs, or bacteria, that live in your mouth. You may have heard your dentist talk about plaque. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria.

These bacteria love sugars found in many foods. When you don't clean your teeth after eating, plaque bacteria use the sugar to produce acids that can destroy the hard surface of the tooth, called enamel. After a while, tooth decay occurs. The more often you eat and the longer foods are in your mouth, the more damage occurs.

Some foods that you would least expect contain sugars. Some examples are fruits, milk, bread, cereals and even vegetables.

The key to choosing foods wisely is not to avoid these foods, but to think before you eat. Not only what you eat but when you eat makes a big difference in your dental health. Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks. If you are on a special diet, keep your physician's advice in mind when choosing foods. For good dental health, keep these tips in mind when choosing your meals and snacks.

To get a balanced diet, eat a variety of foods. Choose foods from each of the five major food groups:
• Breads, cereals and other grain products
• Fruits
• Vegetables
• Meat, poultry and fish
• Milk, cheese and yogurt

Limit the number of snacks that you eat. Each time you eat food that contains sugars, the teeth are attacked by acids for 20 minutes or more.

If you do snack, choose nutritious foods, such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt, or a piece of fruit.

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Foods that are eaten as part of a meal cause less harm. More saliva is released during a meal, which helps wash foods from the mouth and helps lessen the effects of acids.

Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste that has the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance.

Clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners.

Visit your dentist regularly. Your dentist can help prevent problems from occurring and catch those that do occur while they are easy to treat.