Back to school means new teachers, different classrooms, a new notebook and everything else needed for another school year. Most students will have one thing in common -- lunch in the cafeteria. Unlike meals prepared at home, lunches at school have no parental supervision. Many students will indulge in high-sugar snacks and desserts like cookies, pies, soda, fast food and other dietary selections of limited nutritional value. These foods may not only contribute to unnecessary weight gain, but can also significantly increase the likelihood of getting cavities.
A cavity is an infection caused by a combination of carbohydrate-containing foods or beverages and bacteria that live in our mouths. When the bacteria in our mouths are exposed to sugar, they metabolize it and produce acid. As "sugary foods" and other carbohydrates are eaten, the pH drops. At a pH of 5.2 to 5.5 or below, the acid begins to dissolve the hard enamel that forms the outer coating of our teeth. As the cavity progresses, it encroaches on the nerve and blood supply of the tooth resulting in a painful toothache!
Although any carbohydrate-containing food or beverage can contribute to tooth decay, sweetened soda is especially damaging. Sweetened soda seems to damage teeth in two ways. The soda has a low pH and makes the mouth acidic, and the sugar content promotes tooth decay when it comes into contact with bacteria in the mouth. In fact, there has been quite a bit of controversy over the fact that some of the major soda companies have contracted for the placement of their soda machines in a number of schools. Many dentists, as well as several dental associations, have come out strongly against this practice.
Here are some helpful hints to reduce the risk of getting cavities:
- Brush your teeth at least three times a day, especially after eating or drinking and before bed. Flossing at least once a day is important to remove bacteria laden plaque between your teeth.
- Students should be encouraged to bring a toothbrush to school, and brush right after eating.
- Use toothpaste and mouthwash that contains fluoride.
- A procedure called sealants can help reduce cavities on the top and sides of back teeth by protecting the vulnerable grooves on those surfaces. The use of sealants is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce the incidence of cavities.
- Limit the amount and frequency of eating sugary foods and beverages.
- Visit the dentist at least twice a year for a dental examination and teeth cleaning.
Remember, only a dentist can diagnose your dental problems and offer the right treatment plan for you. If you need a dentist, call us at 1-866-970-0441 to be connected with one today.