SODA POP? It's Teeth Trouble!
It's called "pop" in the Midwest and most of Canada, and "soda" in the Northwest. It goes by a well-known brand name in much of the South. But however people say it, the sugary, carbonated soft drinks they're talking about can cause serious oral health problems.
Soft drinks are one of the most significant dietary sources of tooth decay. Acids and acidic sugar byproducts in soft drinks soften tooth enamel, contributing to cavity formation. In extreme cases, softer enamel combined with improper brushing, grinding of teeth, or other conditions can lead to tooth loss. Sugar-free drinks, which account for only 14% of all soft drink consumption, are less harmful, but they are acidic and potentially can still cause problems.
Soft drink consumption in the United States has increased dramatically across all demographic groups, especially amoung children and teenagers. The problem is so severe that health authorities such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have begun sounding an alarm.
Estimates range from one in two to more than four in five young people consume at least one soft drink a day. At least one in five kids consumes a minimum of four servings a day. Some teenagers drink as many as 12 soft drinks a day.
Larger serving sizes make the problem worse. From 6.5 ounces in the 50's, the typical soft drink had grown to up to 20 ounces by the '90's. And long-term consumption of soft drinks has a cumulative effect on tooth enamel.
What to do: There are some steps you can take:
- Substitute different drinks: stock the fridge with beverages containing less sugar and acid such as water, milk, and 100% fruit juice. Drink them yourself and encourage your kids to do the same.
- Rinse with water: after consuming a soft drink, flush your mouth with water to remove vestiges of the drink that can prolong exposure of tooth enamel to acids.
- Use fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinse: fluoride reduces cavities and strengthens tooth enamel, so brush with a fluoride-containing toothpaste. Rinsing with fluoride mouthwash also can help. Your dentist can recommend an over-the-counter mouthwash or prescribe a stronger one depending on the severity of the condition. He/she also can prescribe a higher fluoride toothpaste.
- Get professionally applied fluoride treatment: your dental hygienist can apply fluoride in the form of a foam, gel or rinse.
SMART SNACKS FOR HEALTHY TEETH
Sugary snacks taste good but aren't so good for your teeth or body. Some sugary foods have a lot of fat in them too. Kids who consume sugary snacks eat many different kinds of sugar every day, including table sugar (sucrose) and corn sweeteners (fructose). Starchy snacks can also break down into sugars once they're in your mouth.
How do sugars attack your teeth? Invisible germs (bacteria) live in your mouth. Some of these bacteria form a sticky material called plaque on the surface of the teeth. When you put sugar in your mouth, the bacteria in the plaque gobble up the sweet stuff and turn it into acids powerful enough to dissolve tooth enamel. That's how cavities get started. If you don't eat much sugar, the bacteria can't produce as much of the acid that eats away enamel.
How can I "snack smart" to protect myself from tooth decay? Choose snacks that are better for your teeth. Keep in mind that certain kinds of sweets can do more damage than others--gooey or chewy sweets spend more time sticking to the surface of teeth. Because sticky snacks stay in your mouth longer than foods that you quickly chew and swallow, they give your teeth a longer sugar bath.
Also think about when and how often you eat snacks. Do you nibble on sugary snacks often, or do you usually just have dessert after dinner? Damaging acids form in your mouth every time you eat a sugary snack. The acids continue to affect your teeth for at least 20 minutes before they are neutralized and can't do more harm. So, the more times you eat sugary snacks during the day, the more often you feed bacteria the fuel they need to cause tooth decay.
it's best to eat sweets as dessert after a meal instead of several times a day between meals. Whenever you eat sweets - in any meal or snack - brush your teeth well with a fluoride toothpaste afterward.
There are lots of tasty, filling snacks that are less harmful to your teeth and body. Low-fat choices like raw vegetables, fresh fruits, or whole-grain crackers or bread are smart choices. Eating the right foods can help protect you from tooth decay and other diseases. Next time you reach for a snack, pick a food from the list below or make up your own menu of non-sugary, low-fat snack foods from the basic food groups:
Fresh fruits and raw vegetables: berries, oranges, grapefruit, melons, pineapple, pears, tangerines, broccoli, celery, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices, canned fruits in natural juices
Grains: breads, plain bagels, unsweetened cereals, unbuttered popcorn, tortilla chips (baked, not fried), pretzels, pasta, plain crackers
Milk and dairy products: low- or non-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese
Meats, nuts and seeds: chicken, turkey, sliced meats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, nuts
Others: (foods combined from different groups) pizza, tacos