There’s no doubt that snacking is the number one enemy when you’re trying to maintain your figure: sugary sweets, sour confections and baked goods can send even the most well-intentioned diet careening over a cliff. But these lapses in good judgment could be doing more than setting you back a few pounds on the scales; snacking can actually be ruining your teeth.
Three Ways Snacking Causes Tooth Damage
Snacking can damage your smile in a number of ways, from accidentally chipping a tooth on your favorite hard candy to losing a filling in a chewy pastry. First and foremost, most snacks contain an astronomical amount of sugar and starches, which feed bacteria that contribute to bad breath and plaque, eroding your pearly whites. Secondly, foods containing artificial coloring agents can contribute to staining.
But more worrisome than the potential for plaque buildup and staining is acid erosion. Some snack foods are acidic — think sour candy or even healthy snacks like orange slices. Exposure to these can contribute to your teeth wearing down long before their time, but any snacking can put you at risk.
How Snacking Causes Tooth Erosion
Every time you start eating, the bacteria in your mouth react to the sugars in the food you’re consuming to raise the acidity of your mouth. This is actually beneficial to your body when you’re trying to digest your food — since your body starts breaking it down the moment you start eating it, you’ll have an easier go of it.
But this same process is detrimental to your teeth, especially if you make a habit of snacking or grazing throughout the day. Every time you snack, your teeth are essentially sitting in an acid bath for 30 or so minutes afterward as your body rebalances the pH in your mouth. If you’re constantly snacking throughout the day, this can be problematic, as the acid can eat away at the enamel that strengthens your teeth, eventually leading to decay, cavities or — worst-case scenario — lost teeth.
How to Minimize the Damage
Skipping the snacking might be the best and most obvious way to mitigate damage, but realistically that’s just not possible for everyone based on dietary needs, health concerns or lifestyle. If you must snack, there’s a few ways you can minimize the damage it does to your teeth.
First, choose healthy snacks. Snacks that are low in sugar — especially added sugar — are your best bet for keeping your waistline and teeth healthy. Some snacks, like crunchy carrots, are even rough enough to help clean some of the bacteria and biofilm off of your teeth.
Next, try to minimize your snacking. Plan your snacks ahead of time so that you’re not just reaching willy-nilly for whatever’s on hand. If you can’t plan the timing of them around your meals for whatever reason, make a concerted effort to keep healthy snacks available should you need them. By buying or preparing single-serving, grab-and-go healthy options ahead of time, you get a better idea of what you’re putting into your body and when.
Piggyback your snacks and non-water drinks. If you know you’re going to indulge in a cup of coffee or tea with cream and sugar added a little later on, try to drink it while you’re enjoying your morning or afternoon snack. This will keep your body from initiating that acid attack twice.
Finally, drink more water. While the advice might seem trite and easy to ignore, as it’s a staple of “live healthier!” motivational articles everywhere, sipping on water during and after your snacks has the added benefit of helping minimize the teeth-damaging acids that your body produces.
Regular Visits Help — Really!
Keeping your teeth healthy isn’t just about habit and lifestyle changes. Regular trips to the dentist to ensure your teeth are strong, healthy and well-cared for can make the difference between paying for those snacks at the gym or paying for them by needing costly teeth-whitening treatments or emergency dental repairs.
Not only will making and keeping regular dental appointments give you a chance to make sure everything is as it should be, but it’ll keep you looking and feeling your best.
The offices of Drs. Krieger and Hur make cosmetic dentistry easy and convenient, often completing procedures the same day! When your smile needs perfecting, but your time is limited, give us a call at 201-560-0606 or email us here and we’ll get you fast-tracked back to eye-catching confidence.
We heard your selfies could be a lot better, so we wrote a “How to Take a Great Selfie” guide to help you show off our great handywork. It’ll be our little secret! You don’t have to tell anyone that your dentist helped you perfect those iconic social media images.
Just click here, enter your email and download the PDF. Nothing could be easier. While you’re at it, go ahead and sign up for our newsletter for more tips for keeping that smile white and bright.