Eating dairy foods rich in calcium, casein and phosporous is important for building strong and healthy teeth. There are many other foods and drinks that have a detrimental effect on dental health and tooth enamel. Recent Australian statistics (2018) reveal that 42% of all children aged 5 – 10 years have experienced tooth decay in their primary (baby) teeth. Healthy eating and drinking habits, adequate fluoride and good brushing and flossing are your best toolkit to keep your teeth strong and healthy.
Sugars in the food and drink that we eat are fermented by the bacteria in our mouth (plaque). These bacteria produce acids that soften the outer layer of tooth enamel and lead to dental decay. The acids in the foods and drinks will also soften the enamel on our teeth. Many drinks (soft drinks, cordials, fruit juices, energy drinks, sport drinks, vitamin waters and wine) are high in sugar and acids. Sport drinks, in particular, should be used for elite athletes – not for the weekend sport-goers or as an everyday drink. Diet soft drinks are also high in acids and not tooth-friendly. Water and plain milk should be your drinks of choice. It is also recommended to reduce high sugar foods (lollies, chocolates, fruit bars, cakes, biscuits) and sticky foods (such as processed fruit snacks, lollipops, fruit leathers).
Saliva is the body’s natural defense against dental decay due to its high calcium and phosphorous content which protects the enamel of our teeth. Saliva will also wash away some of the sugars and acid surrounding the teeth and gums. However, problems can occur if the “acid attacks” happen too often through too frequent consumption of sugary, acidic foods and drinks. The body will not be able to produce enough saliva and the repair work takes about two hours.
Keep your mouth hydrated to protect your teeth, and what better way to do this but with good old-fashioned regular tap water as it contains added fluoride. Drink tap water regularly throughout the day and always finish off your meal or snack with a mouthful of water.
Phosphorous rich foods such as meat, chicken, fish, milk, cheese and eggs contain valuable protein and help to strengthen your teeth. Studies also show that eating hard cheese, drinking a glass of milk or having some unflavoured yoghurt neutralises the acid in the mouth. Get your children to finish off their school lunch with some carrot sticks, a cube of cheese or some nuts (if your school is nut-friendly).
Of course, other important things that help remove plaque build-up between your teeth include brushing your teeth for two minutes morning and night, and flossing once a day. Make sure you visit your dentist at least once a year for a dental check-up for the whole family.