April 10, 2007 — MIAMI, BOCA RATON, and FT. LAUDERDALE – The Atkins Diet was popular for its weight-loss properties: But there was a second, little-considered, benefit. A low-carbohydrate diet also helps prevent tooth decay.
Carbohydrates, particularly starches and sugars are the primary cause of tooth decay. That’s because these foods encourage plaque, a sticky form of bacteria that forms on teeth and produce acids that attack tooth enamel. The stickiness of these carbohydrates helps bond the acids to the teeth and, after many such attacks, the enamel breaks down and, voila, you have a cavity.
The history of cavities, also known as “caries,” reveals just how major a role sugar plays. Tooth decay, no doubt, has been a problem throughout history; but the institution in the 1700s of American sugar plantations spread the disease throughout the New World. This led to extensive cultivation of sugar beets in Europe in the 1800s, creating a widespread epidemic.
Thanks to modern oral-hygiene technique, the incidence of cavities has greatly reduced. Toothbrushes may have been the single-most-important factor in slowing the epidemic. With time, additional new treatments and hygiene techniques came along to give people even greater control over their oral health.
We all know the drill: Brush, floss, rinse, etc.; but it doesn’t hurt to review the specifics of good oral hygiene.
- Brush your teeth at least twice daily with a good, fluoride toothpaste
- Floss or use an interdental cleaner daily to remove foods and plaque
- Visit your family dentist twice a year for an oral exam and professional cleaning
- Reduce your sugar intake and avoid between-meal snacks
- Ask the dentists at South Florida Cosmetic Dentistry about “dental sealants,” which protect the teeth with a plastic coating of your chewing surfaces.
Carbohydrates and poor oral hygiene aren’t the only determining factors. Additional contributors include:
- drinking non-fluoridated water
- low saliva production, also known as “dry mouth”
- some antidepressants antihistamines, asthma inhalers and other prescriptive medications
- illegal drugs, including methamphetamines, Ecstasy and heroin
Keep in mind that untreated tooth decay can weaken the entire structure of your tooth, which can result in a root canal or loss of the entire tooth.