Every time you eat or drink anything sugary, your teeth are under attack from acids for up to one hour. This is because the bacteria in your mouth will use these sugars and produce harmful acids as waste products. It is therefore important to limit the number of times sugar passes through your mouth. The frequency of the sugar intake is more important than the quantity. In other words, if you really must eat/drink something sweet, make sure you do it all at once and do not spread it out though the day in many small quantities. All sugars can cause decay and sugar can come in many different forms like sucrose, fructose and glucose to name just three types. All these sugars can harm your teeth. Many processed foods have vast quantities of sugars hidden in them so it is well worth checking on the list of ingredients. It is worth remembering that the phrase 'no added sugar' does not mean that the product is sugar free. It simply means that the manufactures have not added any extra sugar.
Acid foods and drinks can be just as harmful to your teeth. The acid erodes the enamel, exposing the dentine underneath. This can make the teeth sensitive and unsightly. In order to assess the acidity of any food or drink we must find out what the 'pH value' of the food is. This is a relatively simple figure where a value around 7 is safe and any pH below that becomes increasingly hazardous for your teeth. They will literally dissolve if you go low (read acidic) enough! Although the principal of the pH figure is straightforward, finding out what the pH of your food and drink is unfortunately much harder. Below is a short list of a few safe and some outright dangerous things:
Still mineral water
Fizzy drinks including carbonated mineral water
Vinegar / Lemon Juice
Battery acid from your car
After having consumed something acidic do NOT brush you teeth straight away afterwards as the acids will have demineralised your enamel. If you give your saliva approximately 20 minutes, these demineralised surfaces can re-mineralise. If you brush immediately, you will remove this weakened, demineralised layer and strip your teeth through erosion much quicker.
It is better for your teeth and general health if you eat 3 meals a day instead of having multiple snacks as the latter gives the bacteria far more opportunity to harm your teeth. If you do need to snack between meals, choose foods that do not contain sugar. Fruit does contain acids, which can erode your teeth however, as long as you eat them in sensible quantities and avoid the really acidic ones like lemons they are healthier than most other foods and strongly recommended in all the dietary advice that comes out regularly from research. Good savoury snacks are cheese, nuts and raw vegetables like carrots. If you really must snack on something sweet then confectionery containing Xylitol are the best option.
Sugar-free chewing gum
Chewing gum makes your mouth produce more saliva, which helps to cancel out the acid in your mouth after eating or drinking. It has been proven that using sugar-free chewing gum after meals can prevent tooth decay but do not chew it for prolonged periods as fillings can wear out quicker if you chew excessively.
It is important to brush your teeth really well, twice a day with a
fluoride toothpaste. The best times are just after breakfast and just
before you go to bed. This is better than brushing 3, 4 or even more
times a day as the net result is almost invariably that you end up
brushing badly all those times, missing out on the same areas over and
over again. Brush twice and floss just before bedtime is the gold