Is brushing your teeth over-rated?
“I know, I know…my daughter does eat a lot of sweet stuff, but we always make sure she brushes every morning and night. Not to mention doc, we always water down her juice at night.” Sound familiar? To most dentists, it sure does. But it might sound like something you’ve heard your spouse or friend say as well. Unfortunately, the quote above is loaded with misconceptions about how and why we get cavities. Let’s all think of this for a second….do we really believe if we eat sugary or carbohydrate-laden snacks all day, that the couple of minutes we spend brushing in the morning or at night is really going to make a difference? Another thing we commonly hear is “yes, my child eats a lot of candy, but we always brush right after.” Does that matter much either? Cavities form when the bacteria in our mouths break down the sugars we consume into acids and other nasty byproducts. This process starts as soon as that sugars enters our mouth. Knowing this, let’s picture a scenario where someone takes a can of soda, sips on it for an hour, eat a lollipop after the soda is done – but then goes and spends 2 minutes brushing their teeth. Did the brushing really undo the hour-plus consuming sugary snacks? Probaby not. The formation of cavities is mostly related to how long sugars stay in our mouths. This is not to say brushing isn’t important, because it is. Brushing stimulates and cleans our gums, removes a lot of bacteria and their byproducts (plaque), and keeps our mouths fresh and clean. It is also a very effective way of delivering fluoride, desensitizing medications and whitening agents to our teeth. But when it comes to stopping cavities, brushing isn’t the most important thing. Limiting the amount of time sugar stays in your mouth is by far the more important factor. So what can we do to stop getting cavities? First, we must understand that there are many factors involved in the formation of cavities. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on diet only. The one thing you can do that will have the most impact is to make sure sugars are not allowed to linger in your mouth. Do not consume sweet things slowly, or constantly throughout the day. Take inventory of the snacks and drinks that are being consumed. Do they all contain sugar? We might want to make a few changes, such as drinking sweetened drinks (soda, juice, iced tea, etc) only with meals, and drink water in between meals and in the evening. Also, try to replace some of the cookies, candies, cakes with fruits, nuts, cheeses, yogurt, pudding. In the example above, the parent watered down the child’s juice, hoping this would ward off cavities. Although the intention is good, all too often we have seen watered down juices continue to cause cavities. But we see it most in children who sip on this watered down juice throughout the day. So if you’re going to give your child diluted juice, limit it to meal times only as well. Try to avoid snacks that get packed into your teeth – hard sugar candies, pretzels, goldfish crackers. Kids in particular are notorious for not making an effort to get these foods out of their teeth. So as the food sits there jammed in the teeth, the bacteria are busy at work making acids out of the foods and rotting away the teeth. Lastly – even though we spent a few paragraphs bashing it – make sure you brush! Always make it the last thing you do before you go to sleep, because you’re not only sleeping with clean teeth, but you also introduced a little fluoride which will actively prevent cavities. Our staff of dentists at Growing Smiles of Voorhees, whether it’s our general dentist for adults or pediatric dentist for kids, will be more than happy to sit with you and talk more about how to adjust your diet to prevent cavities. You can also get more information on our Google page at plus.google.com/+mygrowingsmile. Here’s to healthy snacking!