October 7, 2012, by Dr. Lou Shuman
How to Keep Your Sweet Tooth from Giving You Bad Teeth
You would think dentists and chocolate were natural enemies – like lions and gazelles. But I have to say, there are some mighty tasty cocoa concoctions on the market, and I’m not naïve enough to believe Americans are going to stay away from M&M/Mars 365 days a year.
So, like lions and gazelles (in zoos at least) chocolate and dentists have to mutually coexist.
Still, consuming sugar creates acid in your mouth. This acid leads to all manner of dental problems, including weakened enamel, cavities and tooth decay.
Below are some tips for ensuring a healthy mouth while still enjoying some of your favorite chocolate candy.
Dental hygiene 101: brushing is your first line of defense against cavities, gum disease and gingivitis. Whenever you’re eaten – especially if you’ve consumed anything sugary or acidic – try to brush your teeth as soon as possible.
The optimal time for brushing is between 2 and 3 minutes. Many of the newer electric toothbrushes offer cycles that automatically times this for you. Otherwise, you might consider using an egg timer or even a song on the radio to evaluate your brushing duration.
Be sure not to brush too aggressively, however. Enamel is easily scraped and hard brushing can contribute to receding gums.
If brushing after a sugary indulgence proves impossible, wash your mouth out with water. It’s not ideal, but the practice is better than nothing.
Equally important to brushing is flossing. While brushing cleans the surfaces of your teeth, the spaces between them also require attention. Trapped food can cause cavities, as well as bad breath.
To properly floss, keep a 1” to 2” section taut between your index fingers and guide the floss between your teeth in a zigzag motion – and remember to pay attention to your gumline.
Named by the CDC as “one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century,” fluoride is your number one defense against tooth decay. While water in your community may contain this compound, it’s not enough to keep a mouth healthy. Your toothpaste also provides fluoride, but to truly strengthen your enamel, ask your dentist for an intensive treatment.
Not every day of the year can be Halloween. A piece of chocolate or two is enjoyable while still being acceptable. More than that, however, and your teeth may suffer. In addition to prospective heart problems and obesity, sugar can destroy your dental health, and in extreme cases, leave you toothless, forcing you to enjoy your candy in liquid form!
Dr. Lou Shuman is a leading authority in the dental industry and the President of Pride Institute. He regularly lectures on keeping a mouth healthy, but admits to enjoying the occasional Snickers bar.