Last time we talked, we discussed Earth Day and cleaning up our habits. This month, we wanted to take a few minutes to talk about the nature of oral health!
Our mouths have their own delicate ecosystem, much like Mother Nature! And like Mother Nature, they are resilient, and have put in place systems to protect and heal themselves. But when outside factors come into play, we have to take extra steps to protect ourselves. For Nature, that means cleaning up litter, recycling, composting, reducing waste, and cutting our carbon footprint.
But what does that mean for our mouths?
Enemy of the State (of Our Mouths)
Our mouths are constantly cleaning themselves, creating healthy bacteria, and working to create tissue. Have you ever noticed that when you bite your cheek, tongue, or lip, it heals faster than most parts of your body? That’s because your mouth has created a perfect environment for regeneration.
So why do so many Americans suffer from poor oral health? There are a lot of factors, but the main threat to our mouth’s natural health system is one sweet word: Sugar.
Sugar inhibits our body’s natural responses to a lot of things, from insulin reactions, energy levels, and fat loss, to how our mouths are able to cope and heal. You may notice that just the thought of your favorite delectable sweet treat, your mouth begins to water. You think that excess saliva is your cue that you truly desire that food, but it’s actually your body initiating a defense against sugar.
Your mouth will instantly create more saliva in an attempt to wash away the sugar you’re only thinking about eating. That’s how much of a danger your own body sees sugar as.
What we put into our mouths has an effect that lasts far longer than the flavor. Whether it’s energizing our body or feeding unhealthy bacteria and heart issues, it’s working long after we have satisfied the craving.
The culprits aren’t always the obvious bad-guys we suspect. Starchy foods are converted to sugars in our mouths and bodies. Our teeth recognize french fries and sandwiches almost the same as they recognize a candy bar! You knew a loaf of bread weighed heavy on the hips, but who knew the toll it took on the lips?
Even healthy foods can become the villain in our toothy tales. Cherries and blueberries are highly acidic and can stain and wear through enamel quickly. Strawberries are packed with sugar, and the seeds can easily lodge themselves, and the sugar they are coated in, between unsuspecting teeth and beneath the gum line.
Clean Up Your Act!
We would never suggest cutting healthy fruits out of your diet just because they contain sugar, and we wouldn’t even suggest taking candy out of special occasions! What’s life without a sweet indulgence now and then?
It is important to restore your mouth to a balanced state as soon as possible after acidic, sweet, or starchy treats. A thorough swish with water, making sure to dislodge any stuck food, can save your teeth hours of exposure!
Put That Brush Down!
It’s actually not recommended that you brush immediately after eating citrus. This might seem counterintuitive, as you want to remove acids from your teeth before they cause corrosion, but your teeth are in a weakened state after eating acidic foods.
When an artist is etching a design into glass, they first paint the surface with an acid, then scratch the design into the surface. The acid temporarily weakens the hard surface of the glass, allowing a gentle scratch to leave a permanent mark.
Acids have a similar effect on your teeth. They temporarily weaken the enamel and leave them vulnerable to damage.
The standard PH of your mouth is a level 7. A soft drink’s PH is about 2.5, nearly the same as vinegar, and will lower your mouth’s PH, leaving teeth weak. Brushing them in this state can damage the enamel of your teeth. Instead, rinse with water or chew sugar free gum after acidic foods or drinks, and then wait about 30-60 minutes before brushing. This gives your saliva time to return your mouth’s PH to safe levels!
What Counts as Acidic?
There is no need to fear or restrict these foods from your diet, but it is important to remain aware and take care after consuming them! The following is a brief list of foods and drinks that contain acids and can create a harmful environment for your mouth.
- Fruit Juices
- Citrus Fruits (Pineapples, Grapefruit, Lemons, Limes, Kiwi, Oranges, etc)
- Salad Dressings, Especially Vinegar Based
- Soda, Including Diet or Zero Calorie/Zero Sugar Soft Drinks
- Coffee and Tea
- Tomatoes and Tomato Ketchup
- Energy Drinks (Even Sugar Free)
- Sports Drinks, Including Low Calorie and Artificially Sweetened Versions
If you have noticed increased sensitivity, receding gums, or thinning enamel, a high-acid diet could be to blame! Always do your best to neutralize the acids as soon as possible, and always give your mouth a chance to do its job!
Oral Environmental Friendliness
You mouth says a lot about you, even when you aren’t speaking. Make sure it’s sending a healthy message. Fresh breath, a clean tongue, and strong teeth send signals with every smile.
A well maintained mouth works hard for you, day and night to stay healthy! Drinking plenty of water, brushing and flossing, and keeping your routine checkups on the calendar are all ways you can keep your mouth a healthy, happy place!