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Caries and Nutrition



Dental caries is a bacterial infection whose course is generally slow and which involves various factors in its appearance – of an internal and external nature – which contribute to each other in giving rise to the disorder.

Among these factors, a place is also occupied by nutrition, as well as, naturally, correct oral hygiene. Therefore, it could be said that the health of our teeth also depends on what we eat.

To know more:

Dental Caries: What is it? Affected Teeth, Course

Caries: Causes and Risk Factors

Sugar and tooth decay

As mentioned, tooth decay is an infection that affects the teeth caused by some microorganisms that populate the oral cavity.

Since the development and proliferation of these bacteria is favored by food residues that remain in the spaces between the teeth, it is important to combine correct oral hygiene with an adequate diet.

To understand which foods are permitted and which foods should be consumed in moderation, we must first of all keep in mind the mechanism of cavity formation: bacteria live in colonies located on the external wall of the teeth, forming the so-called bacterial plaque.

Like all living organisms, bacteria also need food to survive. For this reason they find fertile ground in the food residues that remain between the teeth.

In particular, the nutrients preferred by bacteria are sugars which are used and transformed into lactic acid, a waste product capable of damaging dental enamel and causing tooth decay.

Sugary foods therefore have a decisive role in the formation of tooth decay. The longer these foods remain in the oral cavity, the greater the risk of developing this pathology.

Food Tips to Prevent Tooth Decay

Starting from these two fundamental considerations, a whole series of dietary rules can be drawn up that should be respected:

Limit sugar consumption

The most cariogenic sugars are the simple ones, such as sucrose, glucose and industrial derivatives. However, limiting direct sugar intake is not enough to prevent tooth decay. Today, in fact, sucrose has become the fundamental ingredient of many foods. It is found in soft drinks, sweets, pastries, and even breakfast cereals. Limiting the consumption of sweeteners is therefore a factor that is difficult to control.

Not just sugars

If it is true that simple sugars are rapidly used by bacterial flora, it is equally true that foods containing complex carbohydrates can be equally dangerous. According to the latest research, it seems that the length of time food stays in the mouth is more important than the amount of sugar it contains.

Sugary foods can therefore be consumed with a certain freedom as long as they are followed by adequate oral cleaning. It is also very important that the diet is balanced and provides all the vitamins and minerals necessary to guarantee the health of the dental tissues (especially calcium, magnesium, fluorine and phosphorus).

Avoid “sticky” foods

Sugary foods that tend to stick to the teeth such as caramel are very dangerous because, as we saw in the previous point, they remain inside the oral cavity longer, exposing the teeth to acid attack.

Don't suck

The bad habit of sucking sweets or chocolates between meals is one of the major risk factors, both because this increases the time sugar remains in the mouth and because it is difficult for them to be followed by adequate oral hygiene.

Green light for sugar alcohols and non-cariogenic sugars

In nature there are sugars with very low or even no cariogenic power, others are instead reproduced in the laboratory by man.

Among the most widespread it is worth mentioning fructose and polyalcohols. Among other things, the latter have a lower calorific value than sugar, and remove the risk of diabetes and overweight. They are not toxic but if consumed in excess they have a laxative effect.

Curiously, some of these sweeteners even have a positive effect on oral hygiene. Let's think, for example, of xylitol which, with its strong antibacterial activity, is able to prevent tooth decay.

Watch out for your children

Until the end of adolescence, one is more exposed to the risk of tooth decay due to both constitutional factors (less dental mineralization) and dietary factors (greater propensity to consume sugars).

At a young age, in fact, the sensitivity towards sweet tastes is more marked, driven and amplified by the food industry which offers very appetizing but also very sugary foods. It is estimated that by the age of 6, almost two-thirds of children develop at least one cavity.

The parent can try to educate the child's palate by decreasing the sugar content in homemade foods. In any case, without depriving the child too much, it is essential to impose and teach the importance of correct oral hygiene.

Accustom your palate

Sensitivity and preference for sweet or savory tastes can also be educated. This process generally occurs spontaneously as we age. It is no coincidence that, after the age of forty, the probability of developing tooth decay decreases.

To know more:
Diet and Dental Health

Further Advice

Moving a little away from the strictly food sector, below are some further tips or tricks that may prove useful in the prevention of tooth decay.

Chew it's good for you

The mineralization of the teeth is stimulated by the mechanical stresses of chewing. Nowadays, between juices, herbal teas, soups and smoothies, the stimuli on the teeth are less than in the past. Especially during the growth period it is therefore advisable to train chewing, both to strengthen the teeth and to improve chewing function.

Using chewing gum

Although chewing gum cannot and should not replace cleaning your teeth with brushing and flossing, it can still have some usefulness in preventing tooth decay. Prefer those containing protective substances such as fluoride or xylitol, obviously avoid all those containing sugar.

Chewing gum stimulates salivation which, as we know, contains antibacterial substances and stimulates the rebalancing of the oral pH by alkalinizing it.

Summing up the contents of this article we can conclude by stating that: “A healthy and balanced diet combined with good oral hygiene is the best way to protect your teeth and avoid the risk of tooth decay.”

Other articles to delve deeper into the topic of cavities

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