R&B Tip of the Week: Carbohydrates and teeth

joeyalyssaHave you ever wondered why you have cavities when you don’t eat sugar often and you brush your teeth twice a day? Many people don’t realize that fermentable carbohydrates and starches can also lead to tooth decay.

What is a fermentable carbohydrate?  The two main forms of carbohydrates are sugars (such as fructose, glucose, and lactose) and starches, which are found in foods such as starchy vegetables, grains, rice, breads, and cereals. The body breaks down (or converts) most carbohydrates into the sugars glucose or maltose. This process starts in the mouth.

Only a small amount of glucose or maltose is required by plaque in the mouth to produce acid. The bacteria in the plaque produces an acid that lasts for approximately 20 minutes after each exposure to sugary or starchy foods and beverages. This acid attack leads to tooth decay (cavities).

Tooth decay destroys the tooth structure and can affect both the outer layer of the tooth, the enamel, and the inner (dentin) layer of the tooth.

With both carbs and sugar, it’s important to remember to minimize the amount of time your teeth are exposed to them. Continuous exposure throughout the day is much more damaging to your teeth than short term exposure. Your goal should be to lessen the amount of time that bacteria have to feast on your teeth, thereby cutting down on the acids they will be able to produce.

Of course, proper dental care is a big part of the equation. Rinse your teeth with water right after eating whenever possible, and be sure to clean them thoroughly by brushing and flossing.

Foods to enjoy on special occasions:

  • Chips, bread, pasta, crackers, pretzels, cereal, cookies, cakes, bananas, raisins, soda, diet soda, orange juice, apple juice.

Foods to enjoy daily:

  • Cheese, milk, plain yogurt, nuts, green tea, apples, carrots, celery, water.