Did you know that cavities can be directly traced back to the things you eat, especially if those items are full of sugar? Every time you put food in your mouth, you could be harming your teeth if you don’t take the right preventative measures, followed by good oral hygiene. Summertime is popular for ice cream, popsicles and other delicious treats that help beat the heat. However, don’t let those sweet treats cause cavities! Use these tips for getting through the summer without oral health problems.
Summer Treats 101
Summer is a very popular time for pot-lucks, barbecues and parties. A must for all of these events is delicious desserts of course! Yummy summer treats compliment barbecue choices such as steak, pulled pork sandwiches and hot dogs. One of the most popular desserts is ice cream. June and July are the months where the most ice cream is sold during the entire year. Pecan is the most popular nut ice cream, and strawberry is the most popular fruity ice cream. The International Dairy Foods Association reports that the average person consumes 23 gallons of ice cream a year. The peak for that eating is in the spring and summer months.
Another popular summer treat is the popsicle. Millions of these are sold each year to help cool you down during the hot summer days. Popsicles are so popular in the summer, that the brand “Popsicle” actually has the slogan, “It’s always summer with Popsicle”. Brownies are common at barbecues, as are chocolate chip cookies and pies.
Foods and Your Teeth
Every time you put food in your mouth, you are either hurting or harming your teeth. This is because what you’re eating can cause plaque buildup or acidic demineralization from bacteria. When you eat, sugars in your food (even non-sugar foods) combine with your mouth bacteria. That bacteria consumes the sugar and expels an acidic substance that we call plaque. Plaque will stick to your teeth and looks like a cruddy, clear film along your gum line. Because that plaque is acidic, it works on your teeth to break up the minerals that keep your teeth strong.
Foods you want to watch out for include:
- Sugary sweets. Basically, the more sugar you eat, the more acidic plaque your mouth makes. Cookies, cakes, candies, and added sugars (in many “health foods”) and more all have sugar.
- Starchy foods. Breads, pastas, cookies, crackers and similar (generally white) foods break down into sugar in your mouth and body.
- Hard/chewy candies. Sucking on hard candies or mints exposes the teeth to sugars for an extended period of time. Chewy candies, jellies, fruits, etc., will have the acidic sugars stick to your teeth for longer.
- Hard foods. Instead of acid damage to your teeth, biting into hard nuts, uncooked veggies, hard fruits and non-food items can cause you dental injuries.
Sugar and Your Teeth
We love summer parties and barbecues and the treats that are always there as well. The key is to know what is in the foods and drinks that you consume, how much sugar is there and how to properly clean your teeth afterwards. Food and drink isn’t inherently bad for your smile. It’s simply the sugar content you have to be careful about. As we mentioned, sugar directly leads to plaque production, which can lead to decay over the summer.
If you struggle with avoiding the sugary snacks, set a rule for how much you can eat at your get-togethers. Make sure to set sugar limits for your children as well. The American Heart Association recommends that children get no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day if they want to stay healthy. For women, the limit is also 6 teaspoons and for men it’s 9 teaspoons. You can get several days’ worth of sugar in just one can of soda, so be aware of this. Choose sugar-free options or save your sugar calories for your favorite dessert.
For you or your children, make sure your teeth are brushed after every meal and especially before bedtime. Limiting sugar intake and increasing oral hygiene can help everyone enjoy sugar throughout the summer without all the tooth decay.
What You Can Do
Avoiding cavities is easy if you follow a few simple steps. Those include:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day—if not more—for two minutes at a time, as recommended by the American Dental Association. Cover all tooth surfaces, brushing in various directions.
- Floss your teeth afterwards, at least 1-2 times a day. Make sure you get up into the gumline, scraping along the teeth as you go to remove stuck-on plaque.
- Use fluoride toothpaste and products to strengthen your teeth.
- Limit your sugar intake. The less sugar you eat, the less plaque your mouth makes and the more you can avoid cavities.
- Get dental sealants (from a dentist) for your teeth, which are plastic painted-on coatings that can seal your tooth from harmful substances.
Enjoy Your Summer Treats
This summer, we want you to enjoy all your yummy summer treats. Just make sure to brush, floss and follow the other recommendations we mentioned above. If you know you are going to indulge a lot in sugary drinks, snacks or you’re going to many parties with food, take an oral health travel kit with you. Include a travel toothbrush, toothpaste and floss so you can keep your teeth clean wherever you go. This is also great for snapping photos at parties you want to remember, where your smile can be clean and bright. For tips about avoiding cavities this summer or for a dental health consultation, call Dr. Evanson’s office today at (720) 409-0008!
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