Do you have a sweet tooth? Do you rely on energy drinks and sweet tea to power you through the day? The things you eat and drink can have a big impact on how at risk you are for developing cavities. We have many different kinds of bacteria in our mouths. Some bacteria feed on the sugar we eat, and the acid byproducts they produce weaken and break down teeth, forming cavities.
Sugary / Acidic Foods Put Your Teeth At Risk
So if you often consume sugary or acidic foods, you are putting your teeth at high risk of getting cavities. The more your teeth are exposed to these substances, the more time cavities have to form and grow. Where are all the added sugars in our diet coming from? According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the top sources of added sugar in the diet come from:
soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, 35.7%
grain-based desserts (cakes, pies) 12.9%
fruit drinks 10.5%
dairy-based desserts (ice cream) 6.5%
ready-to-eat cereals 3.8%
sugars and honey 3.5%
tea (sweetened) 3.5%
yeast cuts 2.1%
all other foods 15.4%
Alternatives To Sweets
If you crave sweets, this is hard news to swallow. But what if you could have your “cake” and eat it too? Sugar alcohols and sweeteners can not be digested by the bacteria that cause cavities. One sugar alcohol – xylitol – is a great alternative to sugar. Xylitol actually interferes with the growth process of the bacteria most severely associated with cavities – Streptococcus mutans. That means it could potentially help prevent cavities! The more it contacts your teeth, the better – gum, mints are great ways to consume it. You can also use it in place of sugar when cooking. Another bonus: its low glycemic index makes it a great option for diabetics. What's not to love? Some great candies to try: Spry (mints or gum) and Ice Chips. Ice Chips look like rock candy and also come in many flavors like orange creamsicle and pina colada.
If you're at high risk for cavities, try to drink water instead of soft drinks, and try to eat a diet low in refined carbohydrates. Fruits and vegetables, protein, dairy, and grains without added sugar are great for your overall health and for your teeth. Be sure to use a toothpaste that contains fluoride, to help prevent and reverse early cavities as recommended by the American Dental Association.