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The human body is a complex machine, and the foods that we use as “fuel” have an impact on the bodies general health. The same is true, especially in the case of your gums and teeth. Many dentists are concerned that their patients are consuming a record number of sugar-filled sodas, fruit drinks, candies, and non-nutritious snacks. All of these food choices can negatively affect dental health and can take a serious toll on the gums and teeth over time.

It is very important for children and teens to start establishing healthy eating habits to prevent future decay. When bacteria (plaque) come into contact with sugar in the mouth, acid is produced which attacks the teeth for 20 minutes or more. This can eventually cause tooth decay.

So what foods are more likely to cause tooth decay? Any foods that contain sugars can contribute to tooth decay. Almost all foods have some kind of sugar, however, they should not be totally removed from our diet because they provide essential nutrients and give us energy. One should choose foods low in added sugar and the simple sugars which are present in soft drinks, hard candies, cookies, and pastries.

If your diet lacks certain nutrients then you could be more at risk for infection and periodontal (gum) disease. This is a major cause of tooth loss in adults.

So what can you do to prevent tooth decay and gum disease through healthy diet?

  • Maintain good eating habits.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Limit the number of sugary between-meal snacks.
  • Brush thoroughly twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • If you cannot brush after a meal, chew sugarless gum containing Xylitol, a sugar substitute that reduces tooth decay.
  • Floss or use an interdental (between teeth) cleaner daily to remove plaque (a thin film of bacteria) from between gums and underneath teeth.
  • Schedule regular cleanings, dental visits, and routine checkups.
  • Keep a food diary and compare this to the food guide pyramid’s daily recommendations.