The Adverse Effects Of Snacking On Your Teeth

Chelmsford dentist, Bhavin Buva, discusses oral health problems arising from this increasingly common habit.

Dental examinationThere was a time, not so long ago, when most of us would eat three regular meals a day, usually sitting around the table with our family. There might occasionally be small treats in between, but by and large this was our routine eating habit for many years.

Nothing stays the same though and the rise of readily available and easily cooked ready meals and snacks means that many of us now eat at different times to the rest of our family, with some even preferring to avoid ‘mealtimes’ and instead, tending to snack throughout the day.

A recent study by the Oral Health Foundation has revealed that the tendency to snack has increased by 38% since the nation went into lockdown due to the Covid-19 situation. There are obviously general health implications here, but also implications for our oral health as we will discuss now.

Types of food

Although it is possible to live largely on convenience meals and live reasonably healthily if we make the right choices, many of us probably don’t. We probably tend to go for the familiar rather than try out healthier options. Unfortunately even many savoury ready meals are high in sugar content, whether for preservation or taste purposes. An occasional ready meal will make little difference in the greater scheme of things but with these making up a significant part of the diet of much of the population, the increased amount of sugar consumed is likely to see a rise in cases of tooth decay and gum disease, including amongst our Blue Sky Dental patients.

It isn’t just the main meals that give cause for concern as much snacking is also taking place between meals. Perhaps, during lockdown, this is largely caused by stress or just simple boredom. Things may return to normal when this is all over but snacking can be a habit that can linger. Doing this for any length of time is likely to cause dental problems, especially as so many snacks tend to be on the sugary side.

It isn’t just the fact that these foods contain high levels of sugar that is the problem though. The regularity with which we eat them is an issue in its own right.

Acid buildup

All foods will cause some degree of harm to our teeth and gums if they are not kept clean. Brushing and flossing are an essential part of this but our mouths are continually managing the amount of bacteria, sugars and acids present by washing them away with saliva.

This is something that happens all of the time, but when we snack, rather than leaving significant gaps between our meals, there is simply insufficient time available for the saliva to do its job effectively before we eat again. This means that our teeth and gums are coming into regular and almost constant contact with harmful substances.

Even with more tooth friendly foods, this can cause a problem over time; with typical snack foods such as sweets, crisps and biscuits, the amount of sugar consumed is significant. Problems like tooth decay, sensitivity and even gum disease can soon follow.

Can you snack in a tooth friendly manner?

As we have mentioned above, even eating tooth friendly foods in this manner can cause issues, so let’s take a quick look at how to reduce the problem. The most obvious thing of course is to eat regular meals and not snack, but given that this is unlikely to happen, here are some additional tips to help:

Snack less often – If you can’t stop, try to cut it down. The longer you can leave between snacks, the more time there is for saliva to help wash food debris and sugars away.

Drink water afterwards – If you have a drink of water after your snack, swilling it around your mouth before you swallow, you will at least remove some of the larger pieces of food that may have become trapped between your teeth. It will also keep you hydrated, producing a healthier saliva flow and helping to protect against gum disease.

Chew sugar free gum – If you are snacking out of boredom rather than hunger, try chewing sugar free gum. Not only is this sugar free but it will help to stimulate saliva flow and help to clean your mouth.

Eat ‘crisp’ foods – Snacks such as carrot or celery sticks can be useful, not only to replace less tooth friendly snacks but the crispness will also help to clean around the teeth. Apples and other crunchy fruits can also do this but do remember that fruit sugar is just as harmful to teeth as refined sugars when consumed in excess.

Finally, do make sure to brush and floss your teeth well both morning and night. It might seem obvious but it is still the most important thing you can do on a daily basis to promote a healthy mouth.

We are currently still closed but it is believed that the Government is currently looking into when dental practices in the UK can open again. Rest assured, we will let you know as soon as we have that information. In the meantime, you can still call us regarding dental emergencies on 01245211070.

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