Snacking throughout the day is a common habit. However, if you’re constantly nibbling on something, this practice could harm your smile more than you think. Why does snacking impact your oral health? Here’s what you should know, and my recommendations for prevention.
How Snacking Impacts Your Oral Health
When you snack throughout the day, your teeth are exposed to a constant cycle of acidic and sugary attacks. Your saliva helps neutralize some of the acids, prevent plaque from building up in the oral cavity, and repair minor damage. But frequent snacking can overwhelm this natural defense mechanism, leaving your teeth vulnerable.
Increases Your Risk for Tooth Decay
Since saliva plays an important role in protecting our teeth, the lack of it may increase your risk for tooth decay. People who experience dry mouth are at higher risk for tooth decay, but so are those who snack frequently, because this habit doesn’t give your body a chance to produce the adequate amount of saliva needed to neutralize acids from what you’re eating. When you snack instead of eating a full meal, you could be increasing your risk for tooth decay and not realize it.
Additionally, snacks high in sugar, like candies, cookies, and chips feed the bacteria naturally present in your mouth. These bacteria produce acids as they break down the sugars, leading to plaque formation. Over time, plaque can cause tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease.
Processed Foods Attack Tooth Enamel
Unfortunately, highly processed snacks contain added sugars and carbohydrates. These types of foods like the ones mentioned above not only stick to your teeth but also start eroding tooth enamel because they take longer to break down. This leads to sensitivity and tooth decay.
Snacking on processed foods that are low in water content can decrease saliva production, and also prompt inflammation common in gum disease.
Recommendations to Reduce Snacking and Improve Oral Health
To protect your teeth, it's essential to practice good oral hygiene habits, including brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily, and visiting your dentist regularly. Additionally:
- Limit snacking between meals. Reducing the amount of time spent nibbling is important for your oral health. It’s fine to have occasional snacks, but be choosy about what you eat and when.
- Choose healthier snack options. Fruits and vegetables are better than processed foods. Limit sugary snack foods to meals can also help you maintain better oral health instead of
eating sugar in between meals when your saliva production is going to be lower.
- Drink plenty of water. Curb the urge to snack by with a big glass of water. Not only does this rinse bacteria from your mouth, but it also helps replenish your saliva and maintain a barrier between harmful bacteria and your tooth enamel.