Save your smile with healthier snacking

By the Washington Dental Service Foundation

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Photo courtesy of Washington Dental Service Foundation

Here is one good reason to keep your hand out of the bag of chips — this one may surprise you. Frequent snacking doesn’t just affect your waistline, it can also cause major problems for your teeth, harming both your smile and your overall health.

Snacking or drinking sweet (including sweetened tea or coffee) or acidic beverages (including diet soda and sports drinks) frequently throughout the day can lead to painful cavities. Here is another twist. It is not just sugary foods that cause cavities. Even snacks that we think of as healthy, such as bagels, juice, granola bars, and raisins, contribute to decay if they are consumed too often throughout the day.

Most of us don’t realize that teeth need time to rest between exposures to foods and drinks.

Just like your muscles need time to rest and recover after exercising, teeth need time to recover and rebuild in between drinking and eating.

Grazing and drinking beverages (other than water) throughout the day keeps food and drinks on your teeth for extended periods of time. Eating starchy foods and drinking sugary or acidic beverages feed the germs that cause tooth decay. These germs make acids that attack tooth enamel for 20 minutes each time you eat or drink. Once tooth enamel has eroded, it’s gone, leaving teeth vulnerable to cavities that can be both painful and costly.

Over your lifetime, you can save about $2,000 for every cavity prevented. When you consider that most adults have about 32 teeth, preventing tooth decay can add up to real savings.

Here are some tips to reduce the amount of time food has on teeth:

• If you have a snack, eat it all at once instead of nibbling over time.

• Limit sugary and acidic drinks and starchy foods between meals.

• Choose healthy snacks such as cheese, fruits, and vegetables.

• Drink water, especially fluoridated water, between meals to rinse the food and sugar off your teeth.

• Brush teeth twice a day and floss daily. Flossing cleans about 40 percent of your tooth surfaces.

To learn more about healthy snacking and other ways to prevent cavities, check out a new website called TheMightyMouth.org. The website is part of a campaign by Washington Dental Service Foundation, physicians, fitness experts, dentists, and others to raise awareness about the importance of good oral health and its connection to overall health.

Preventing cavities through smart snacking, brushing, flossing, and regular checkups pays off. Protecting your oral health and your smile will keep you looking younger longer and save you money. It is a proven way to stay healthy and it is right under your nose. (end)

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