Valentine’s Day the focus can be on sweets! Sugar, sugar and more sugar. Oh yeah and loving the sweetie-pie(s) in your life. Back to chocolate, I love it as much as the next person. My husband and I have a tradition of baking extravagant and completely out of our comfort zone desserts for Valentine’s Day. It’s so fun and yummy (most of the time!). This years bakes are Vegan Fruit Snacks and Vegan Maple Bars. With these tips you can beat cavities all year long, but especially in times of sweet delights.
Back to our health and teeth health specifically. The average person most likely knows that sugar can cause cavities. But there are a LOT of other factors that go into it; pH, saliva, stress, diet, sugar frequency vs quantity, oral hygiene homecare (i.e brushing, flossing, water-piking, tooth-picking, rinsing), water intake, fluoride exposure as a child, genetics etc.
What is a Cavity and How Do They Form?
In a nutshell, cavities are formed by decaying tooth structure (another term caries) that CAUSE an actual cavitation in the tooth’s enamel and underlying dentin. This process is caused by the acid that is released from the bacteria in our mouth/saliva. These bacteria take in sugar and release acids, therefore changing the pH of that surrounding area, resulting in loss of minerals that make our teeth hard (Source is my BS in Dental Hygiene, I am a Registered Dental Hygienist). I wont go in the details of hydrogen ions and pH but I will say that our saliva acts as a buffer to these acids as well as the fluctuation of acids we consume via food and drink throughout the day.
10 Tips to Avoid Cavities
The little things do add up
- Brush your teeth…..and FLOSS for gosh-sakes. I wont go into details, that’s a whole other post but consistent mechanical removal of plaque is one of your best defenses.
- Drink lots of water throughout the day, importantly with meals aka sugar and acid.
- If your going to have sweets/sugar, do it all in one sitting not slowly throughout the day. This gives your saliva a chance to catch up on its job rather than having sugar assault all day long. Frequency is more vital than quantity. Have a lot of sugar every now and again (like for Valentines Day) but don’t do it often and don’t stretch it throughout the day. Say a 20 minute setting eating cookies with your family rather than taking a bite of a cookies every 20 minutes for a whole day.
- Check the pH of your drinks. The lower the number the more acidic by 10 fold each point down. La Croix and most carbonated waters are around 4.5. Soda, energy drinks, juice and coffee is around 3. Water is neutral at 7. Our saliva is around 7.4. When these products have added sugar or your eating sugar or simple, refined carbs, it’s a cavity-causing bacteria hay day! Rule of frequency applies here too, same concept, your saliva needs a chance to buffer out the acids. Have a drink in a 20-60 minute setting, than have water the rest of the day rather than sipping a ‘milking’ a latte for the whole morning.
- Watch out for gum and mints. Not all are sugar-free. Like tictacs and small candies they are packed with sugar and are meant to sit in your mouth for long periods of time. OR you chew them up right away, till bad, your jamming the sugar into the small crevices of your teeth and sealing it in with their sticky hard mediums. I highly recommend NOT eating these multiple times a day if any at all. That is up to your personal overall health practices.
- Use natural pH buffers in foods or rinses. I like to recommend baking soda mixed in water to rinse with on days that you consume more sugar, acids or after vomiting (add xylitol and peppermint essential oil for a daily rinse). Foods that are high in minerals, especially phosphorus and calcium, are helpful in re-introducing the minerals that are lost with acids. See this list.
- Use Xylitol, a natural alcohol sugar that not only adds sweetness but actually fights cavities from being formed. (Source). I get the crystals (kind of looks like more shiny white sugar) at stores with bulk sections and add it to homemade toothpaste and mouth rinse. I hope to make my own Ice Chips someday.
- Use Stevia and Erythritol in moderation, can be a great sweetener alternative. Like the occasional Lilys Vegan Stevia Chocolate. I stay away from artificial sweeteners, colors, and flavors.
- Do your own asking around and research about fluoride. I wont go into it really because it should be an individual and customized conversation person to person. Ask your dentist, your physician, your naturopath or you can ask me privately if you want an all -natural, zero waste, dental hygienist’s perspective on your specific situation pertaining fluoride.
- Consume less DAILY sugar. This includes honey, agave, coconut nectar and maple syrup but do indulge every so often if your diet allows. This ALSO includes simple carbs (that eventually break down to glucose i.e. sugar ) like pretzels, bread, cookies, cakes, muffins, crackers. Check the nutrition label they sneak sugar into a lot of ‘health’ foods like salad dressing, sauces, dips etc. My rule of frequency also applies here. (see tip #4)
Happy Treat Eating. You’ll be a cavity-beating warrior if you follow these tips! Sadly, and legally, no guarantees my friends. Consult your dentist and doctor for more information regarding your overall and dental health.