Biting into your favorite dessert and savoring the sweet taste of the succulent treat may make you feel guilty by the last bite. Limiting sweet tooth cravings has been done as a preventative measure to stop the build-up of plaque that can lead to tooth decay. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research's (NIDCR) National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 92 percent of adults between the ages of 20 to 64 have had cavities in their permanent teeth. Treatment for cavities can be costly without medical insurance, therefore prompting sufferers of tooth decay to leave their cavities untreated. While treating a cavity can cost $100 on average, leaving it untreated can wind up costing you more. Cavities can evolve into root canals that can cost you $1,000 on average; failure to get your annual dental cleaning ($80 on average) can end up costing you $2,000, due to gum disease treatments, reports the New York Times. While the moderate consumption of sweets won't put you on the dentist chair, improper care of tooth decay caused by sugar can bring you a lifetime of costly dental visits.
The overindulgence of sweets and lack of dental hygiene can lead to severe tooth decay. When your tooth enamel — the hard, outer layer of your teeth — is damaged due to the formation of plaque, cavities begin to form, says Mouthhealthy.org, an American Dental Association website. The plaque on your teeth will continue to grow on the enamel and produce acids triggered by the sugary foods and drinks you consume, which will create a small hole in your tooth.
Foods That Prevent Cavities
Dairy products like cheese have been found to promote good oral health by preventing cavity formation. In a study published in the journal General Dentistry, researchers examined the dental plaque pH in 68 participants ranging from 12 to 15 years of age, before and after they consumed cheese, milk, sugar-free yogurt, or paraffin (control). The results of the study showed that there was a significant change in plaque pH after consuming dairy products; cheese was found to have the highest plaque pH compared to milk and yogurt after 30 minutes of consumption. Researchers suggest that cheese has anti-cavity properties because of the rising pH levels, which leads to an increase in calcium and triggers salvia formation, helping to reharden enamel.
The prevention of tooth decay can be done through an apple a day. While fresh fruits do contain high sugar levels and can be sweet and acidic, they can stimulate saliva flow, says Reader's Digest. The extra saliva reduces cavities because it lowers levels of bacteria.
While chewing regular gum is the cause of cavities, the consumption of sugar-free gum with xylitol can prevent plaque build-up. Xylitol, an additive known as a natural sweetener that fights bacteria that causes cavities, can significantly reduce tooth decay. In a review published in the journal Dental Education, several clinical studies were evaluated that claimed sugar substitutes can help prevent cavities. The studies conducted on this matter mostly used children as their sample population and were done outside the U.S. The review found that there was a 30- to 60-percent decrease in tooth decay across the studies in comparison to the control groups of those studies. Xylitol or sorbitol were the two additives used as the sugar replacements, with xylitol accounting for the highest cavity reductions in the studies examined.
Consuming sugary drinks after a high-sugar treat can further deteriorate your dental health. Even sugar-free drinks with carbonated water can weaken your tooth enamel because of their high acidity levels. When you do drink carbonated drinks, a straw can be used to prevent the acidity of these drinks from going on your teeth.
Milk can help bring up pH levels lost while consuming sugary foods and drinks. In a study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, researchers examined the effects of whole milk, apple juice, or tap water after 20 adult participants ate Froot Loops cereal. The adult participants were told to not wash their teeth for 24 hours in order to allow plaque to build up on their tooth enamel to effectively test out their theory. The results of the study showed that milk helped to strengthen the participants' teeth and weaken the acidic levels after the cereal consumption.
Green Tea And Black Tea
The consumption of green tea or black tea after having a sugary treat can reduce cavities by preventing plaque build-up and inhibiting bacteria. The leaves of the Camilla sinensis plant in tea has been linked to preventing tooth decay due to its anti-cavity properties, according to Kenyon College. Do not consume tea with sweeteners, milk, or cream.
Lovers of the alcoholic beverage will be happy to know that a glass of wine after indulging yourself in a box of chocolates can fight bacteria that promotes cavities. The active components found specifically in red wine, proanthocyanidins, have been thought to have antioxidants that contain tooth-healthy properties, says Discovery.com.
To learn more about cavity prevention, visit Mayo Clinic.