Are you a snacker? Do you enjoy sipping on sodas, juices, coffees, and other drinks that aren’t water throughout the day? While such habits may seem harmless, did you know that they can negatively affect your oral health?
Even if you’re someone who takes stellar care of your teeth, you may find yourself getting cavities almost every time that you see the dentist if you have these habits. We’ll get into why this is below, as well as what you can do to minimize your risk of cavities if you have a health condition that calls for regular snacking as opposed to standard meal times.
In one of our previous blogs, How Your Diet Impacts Your Teeth: Interesting Facts You Need To Know, we went over diet generally. Here, we’ll cover snacking and sipping specifically.
Why Is Snacking And Sipping Bad For You?
When you eat or drink something that isn’t water, your body kickstarts the digestive process. This means that even if you’re drinking your iced coffee through a straw, your saliva is starting to generate acid. It takes about an hour after you eat or drink something for your saliva to revert to normal levels.
What this means is that if you’re constantly snacking or sipping on something other than water throughout the day, your mouth may be in an acidic state most of the time. This can lead to enamel damage. While your saliva helps to neutralize acid in your mouth, if you’re constantly snacking and sipping, you’re overwhelming your mouth and making it hard for your saliva to do its job.
Your mouth needs to be in a neutral pH most of the time in order to maintain a healthy environment. If your mouth is acidic more often than not, this increases your risk for problems like dental decay and disease.
Sugar: A Nightmare Disguised As A Dream
This is especially true for sugary treats. Not only can excessive sugar consumption lead to health problems like diabetes, heart disease, and weight gain, it’s bad for your teeth. The bacteria in your mouth uses sugar to produce acids that damage your teeth. Thus, every time you have sugar, the demineralization process starts, which can damage your teeth.
We know that sugar is an incredibly addictive substance. Head on over to our previous blog, Steps to Cut Down Your Consumption of Sugar, for tips on how to do just that.
Soda, Pop, Soda Pop – Whatever You Call It, It’s Bad
Sodas tend to be a guilty pleasure, with pretty much everyone knowing that no, they’re not good for you, but man, are they good. Fortunately, you can still enjoy your sodas and other tasty beverages while minimizing the risk of damage to your teeth. You can do this by having your sodas, coffees, or other drinks with your meals. This way, you’re reducing the amount of time that your mouth is in an acidic state.
You may think that having your drink of choice other than water with a straw may minimize the risk such drinks can pose to your teeth. You wouldn’t be entirely wrong!
Drinking potentially staining beverages like coffee, tea, soda, dark juices, red wine, and the like through a straw keeps your smile whiter by minimizing the amount of contact these drinks have with your teeth. However, straws don’t help with the fact that your body’s starting the digestive process when it detects something other than water in your mouth.
This is why you shouldn’t slowly sip on anything other than water throughout the day. While sipping on your tea, coffee, or other beverage of choice may seem harmless, the truth of the matter is that the longer your teeth are exposed to acids, the more damage can be done.
Constantly sipping exposes your teeth to acid on a regular basis, which can lead to tooth decay. While drinking through a straw minimizes the amount of damage such drinks can do, it doesn’t eliminate it. So, if you’re a sipper, stick to water and save the flavored beverages for mealtimes.
This applies to flavored waters too. Flavored waters have more acidity than regular water, meaning that while they’re a healthier choice than other drinks, you should still have them in moderation in order to protect your teeth.
How To Protect Your Teeth
As such, to keep your teeth in as good condition as possible while enjoying your favorite beverages, ensure that you have them with straws and only at meal times. You may also choose to chase your drink with a glass of water in order to help neutralize the acid.
If you’re a fan of acidic drinks or snacks, like orange slices or sodas, wait about half an hour before you brush your teeth. This is because acid temporarily weakens your enamel, so brushing right away could cause more damage. Rinse with water or mouthwash, and then after 30 minutes, give your teeth a brush.
In general, if you must snack, it’s best to go for nutritious options, like seaweed, vegetables and hummus, fruits, nuts, yogurts, and other such options.
What About If You Have A Health Condition?
While for most people, avoiding snacking and only having drinks with meals is an easy adjustment to make, such is not the case for everyone. If you have a health condition involving reflux and regurgitation, you may feel at a loss. Medical advice for minimizing symptoms of reflux and regurgitation typically includes having lots of little meals, rather than the standard breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as this is easier for your body to handle.
If you have a health condition that causes you to need to snack throughout the day, it’s best to consult with your dentist and your doctor in order to determine the best way to take care of both your general health and your dental health. Your dentist may recommend measures like prescription-strength toothpaste, more frequent fluoride treatments, or other treatment methods in order to minimize your risk of cavities.
Many people find themselves snacking out of boredom, so ensuring that you live a full, enriching life can help you avoid unnecessary snacking. Others snack when they’re stressed. If you are often stressed, you may benefit from seeing a therapist, as well as other stress-reduction tactics, like exercise, meditation, and journaling.
As both your dental health and your general health are very important, you’ll need to ensure that you’re doing what you can to help them both. Dental and medical professionals can help you here.