5 Meals a Day Keeps the Dentist Away

We can drill you about flossing daily or coming in for a dental checkup every 6 months (actually we would really love it if you did both), but we wanted to instead take a moment to look at an everyday activity that may be unknowingly affecting your teeth – eating.

It’s a little known fact, that on top of what we eat, the number of times we eat throughout the day also affects the health of our teeth.

What you eat: teeth can’t differentiate between healthy and unhealthy sugars.

We all know that excessively sugary foods such as lollies and soft drinks are bad for our teeth. The main problem lies in the fact that our teeth can’t tell the difference between the sugar found in chocolate bars to the sugar found in healthy food items like fruit.

For teeth, sugars from fruit and juice have almost the same effect as cakes and cordial.

With this in mind, it’s not about cutting these items out completely, but rather paying attention to how many times a day we are eating.

How often you eat: 5 meals a day is optimum for healthy teeth.

The frequency of eating matters because whenever we eat or drink – the environment in our mouth increases in acidity level. Many of the foods we eat are either acidic in pH (eg. fruit, wine, juice), or contain starch which can be broken down into sugar (eg. bread, rice). This increase in acidic pH is known as an ‘acid attack’ to tooth enamel.

Our saliva is designed to defend teeth against some of this acid, but it needs a clear break between meals to recover and bring the mouth back to a neutral pH. After each time you eat, it takes the mouth about 30 minutes to bring the pH back to neutral and out of the danger zone for tooth enamel damage.

Problems arise when we snack on food and drinks (excluding water) throughout the day, which maintains the mouth in a consistent acid environment.

Grazing doesn’t give our saliva time to recover and over time this damages the protective enamel layer on our teeth. Damaged enamel will progress to tooth decay, cavities and dental erosion (whereby the enamel literally dissolves away!)

To prevent teeth from damage and deterioration, we recommend that drinks and food be consumed together in meal blocks with clear breaks in between.

In our research, we’ve found that the magic number for maintaining a healthy balance for teeth is no more than 5 eating episodes a day.  This will give the saliva and mouth environment plenty of time to recover from these ‘acid attacks’.

Since our teeth can’t differentiate between healthy and unhealthy sugars, we suggest that in between meals to drink plain water rather than juices or flavoured water.

So when it comes to dental care, at Whitehorse Dental we encourage you to reconsider your daily eating habits as it will go a long way to contributing towards the overall health of your pearly whites.

Oh and book yourself in for that dental checkup at our dental clinic in Blackburn, we’d love to see you!

Image credit: Obstsmiley by Oliver Tacke is licensed under CC BY 2.0.