and Oral Health
To prevent cavities and maintain
good oral health, your diet - what you eat and how often you
eat - are important factors. Changes in your mouth start the
minute you eat certain foods. Bacteria in the mouth convert
sugars from the foods you eat to acids, and it's the acids
that begin to attack the enamel on teeth, starting the decay
process. The more often you eat and snack, the more frequently
you are exposing your teeth to the cycle of decay.
Foods and Drinks
The best food
choices include cheeses, chicken or other meats, nuts, and
milk. These foods are thought to protect tooth enamel by providing
the calcium and phosphorus needed to remineralize teeth (a
natural process by which minerals are redeposited in tooth
enamel after being removed from enamel by acids).
choices include firm/crunchy fruits (for example, apples and
pears) and vegetables. These foods have a high water content,
which dilutes the effects of the sugars they contain, and
stimulate the flow of saliva (which helps protect against
decay by washing away food particles and buffering acid).
Acidic foods, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes and lemons,
should be eaten as part of a larger meal to minimize the acidic
environment to which your teeth and mouth must be exposed.
choices include candy - such as lollipops, hard candies, and
mints -- cookies, cakes, pies, breads, muffins, potato chips,
pretzels, french fries, bananas, raisins and other dried fruits.
These foods contain large amounts of sugar and/or can stick
to teeth, providing a fuel source for bacteria. In addition,
cough drops should be used only when necessary as they, like
sugary candy, contribute totooth
decay because they continuously coat the teeth with sugar.
The best beverage
choices include water (especially fluoridated water), milk,
and unsweetened tea. Limit your consumption of sugar-containing
drinks, including soft drinks, lemonade, and coffee or tea
with added sugar. Also, avoid day-long sipping of sugar-containing
drinks - day-long sipping exposes your teeth to constant sugar
and, in turn, constant decay-causing acids.
Substitutes and Sugar-Free Products
are available that look and taste like sugar; however, they
are not digested the same way as sugar, so they don't "feed"
the bacteria in the mouth and therefore don't produce decay-causing
acids. They include: erythritol, isomalt, sorbitol and mannitol.
Other sugar substitutes that are available in the U.S. include
saccharin, aspartame (marketed as Equal), acesulfame potassium
(marketed as Sunett), and sucralose (marketed as Splenda).
or sugar-free food sometimes simply means that no sugar was
added to the foods during processing. However, this does not
mean that the foods do not contain other natural sweeteners,
such as honey, molasses, evaporated cane sugar, fructose,
barley malt or rice syrup. These natural sweeteners contain
the same number of calories as sugar and can be just as harmful
if the sugarless or sugar-free foods you buy contain natural
sweeteners, examine the ingredients label. Words that end
in '-ose' (like sucrose and fructose) indicate the presence
of a natural sweetener. On the label, look under sugars or
Chewing Gum OK?
gum is actually beneficial to your teeth as chewing helps
dislodge food that becomes stuck to your teeth and also increases
saliva flow to buffer (neutralize) mouth acids. Gums that
contain the sugar substitute xylitol even reduce cavities.
Teeth and Gum Care Tips
• Brush your
teeth regularly. Brush at least twice a day and preferably
after every meal and snack.
• Use a fluoride-containing toothpaste.
• Floss at least once a day.
• Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings
- typically twice a year.
• Eat a variety of foods to maintain overall health. Eat fewer
foods containing sugars and starches between meals. If you
must snack, choose nutritious foods, such as cheese, raw vegetables,
plain yogurt or a firm fruit (such as an apple).
are coverings worn over teeth, and often used to protect teeth
from injury from teeth grinding and during sports.
There are three types of mouth guards:
1. Stock mouth protectors are preformed and
come ready to wear. They are inexpensive and can be bought
at most sporting good stores and department stores. However,
little can be done to adjust their fit, they are bulky and
make breathing and talking difficult and they provide little
or no protection. Dentists do not recommend their use.
and bite mouth protectors also can be bought at many
sporting goods stores and may offer a better fit than stock
mouth protectors. The "boil and bite" mouth guard
is made from thermoplastic material. It is placed in hot water
to soften, then placed in the mouth and shaped around the
teeth using finger and tongue pressure.
mouth protectors are individually designed and made
in a dental office or a professional laboratory based on your
dentist's instructions. First, your dentist will make an impression
of your teeth and a mouth guard is then molded over the model
using a special material. Due to the use of the special material
and because of the extra time and work involved, this custom-made
mouth guard is more expensive than the other types, but it
provides the most comfort and best fit and protection.
Generally, mouth guards cover your upper teeth only, but in
some instances (such as if you wear braces or another fixed
dental appliance on your lower jaw), your dentist will make
a mouth guard for the lower teeth as well. Your dentist can
suggest the best mouth guard for you. An effective mouth guard
should be comfortable, resist tears, be durable and easy to
clean, and should not restrict your breathing or speech.
If you grind
your teeth at night, a special mouth guard-type of dental
appliance – called a nocturnal bite plate or bite splint --
may be created to prevent tooth damage.
Needs a Mouth Guard?
should be used by anyone – both children and adults – who
play contact sports such as football, boxing, soccer, ice
hockey, basketball, lacrosse, and field hockey. However, even
those participating in noncontact sports (for example, gymnastics)
and any recreational activity (for example, skateboarding,
mountain biking) that might pose a risk of injury to the mouth
would benefit from wearing a protective mouth guard.
children who grind their teeth at night should have a nocturnal
bite plate or bite splint made to prevent tooth damage.
Use a Mouth Guard When Playing Sports?
can happen during any physical activity, the advantage of
using a mouth guard is that it can help limit the risk of
mouth-related injuries to your lips, tongue, and soft tissues
of your mouth. Mouth guards also help you avoid chipped or
broken teeth, nerve damage to a tooth or even tooth loss.
Can I Wear a Mouth Guard if
I Wear Braces?
an injury to the face could damage orthodontic brackets or
other fixed appliances, a properly fitted mouth guard may
be particularly important for people who wear braces or have
fixed bridge work. Your dentist or orthodontist can determine
the mouth guard that will provide the best protection for
your unique mouth work. An important reminder: do not wear
any retainers or other removable appliance during any contact
sports or during any recreational activities that put your
mouth at risk for injury.
Do I Care for My Mouth Guard?
To care for
your mouth guard:
• Rinse your
mouth guard with cold water or with a mouth rinse before and
after each use and/or clean it with toothpaste and a toothbrush.
• Occasionally clean the mouthguard in cool, soapy water and
rinse it thoroughly.
• Place the mouth guard in a firm, perforated container to
store or transport it. This permits air circulation and helps
to prevent damage.
• Protect the mouth guard from high temperatures – such as
hot water, hot surfaces, or direct sunlight – to minimize
distorting its shape.
• Occasionally check the mouth guard for general wear. If
you find holes or tears in it or if it becomes loose or causes
discomfort, replace it.
• Bring the mouth guard to each regularly scheduled dental
visit to have your dentist exam it.