We have all been guilty of sneaking a few extra snacks in, especially during this time, where many of us are working from home, where the snacks are within reach. Whilst a snack a day isn’t a bad thing, we generally aren’t reaching for the healthy snacks in the cupboard. Biscuits and sweets are much more appealing, most of us are a sucker for something sweet! But this can actually be causing more damage than you may think. Snacking can actually cause more harm than good, especially when it comes to your oral health.
Our bodies are designed to keep themselves in check, however, we have to ensure that we are providing them with the right nutrients and conditions to remain healthy. Our mouths are incredible at balancing out the acidity that we introduce in our diets. Saliva is produced and this naturally cleans and adjusts the PH levels. This reduces cavities.
When we snack, more acidity is produced, and generally, when we are snacking, we are doing so over a period of time, unlike a meal, when you eat it all at once. By spreading out the snacks over time, there is no time for your mouth to balance out the acidity, and the more acidity in your mouth, the more at risk you are of getting cavities.
Not only is snacking bad for your oral health, but it can also affect your weight, blood pressure, heart issues and skin.
The Common Culprits
When we reach for a snack, it’s often something that is seen as a small treat, rather than a healthy option to lessen the hunger. So we often have starchy or sweet foods. These are the biggest culprits when it comes to creating cavities. Starchy foods actually stick to your teeth, so unless you are brushing your teeth straight away, the remnants will remain on your teeth for the rest of the day.
Foods that we suggest you try to avoid in your daily snacking are those high in citrus, like grapefruits, any sticky and sweet treats, these will cling to your teeth, especially if you don’t brush soon after and pickled options, these are also highly acidic. It isn’t just food that effects the acidity in your mouth. Drinks can be just as bad! Avoid drinking too much soda or juice, not only do they contain a lot of sugar, but they are also quite acidic and get into the crevices in your teeth.
What should you do?
One good starting point for reducing your snacking is to establish why you are snacking. Is it out of boredom? Maybe from habit? Or perhaps you are hungry and can’t wait for the next meal. Once you work this out, you can decide on the next step. A good way of breaking snacking habits is to change the habit. Instead of snacking out of boredom, why not get up and have a stretch or work on a puzzle, something that will keep your mind from craving a snack. If you are finding that you’re getting hungry quickly, it might be good to eat a larger, more substantial meal. It’s much better for your oral health to have one good meal rather than snacking, because as we mentioned, saliva needs time to process the acidity and food left in your mouth, but when you are constantly snacking and giving your saliva more to break down, it can’t keep up!
Whilst we recommend you avoid snacking, we do understand that snacks can be necessary to make it through the working day. If you find that you have to snack, we highly recommend that you opt for the healthy choices! And when you are snacking on starchy foods, try to brush your teeth soon after, or at least give your mouth a good rinse with some water.
When you do need to snack, there are quite a few good, healthy options that won’t cause too much damage to your teeth. These include raw veggies, especially ones like cucumber that are filled with water. Apples are also a great option and can be quite filling. Nuts such as almonds, cashews and pistachios may be high in calories, but the unsalted versions can be quite nutritious and filling, just make sure you don’t bite down on any shells!
When it comes to drinks, water really is the only option that is good for your teeth. We love adding fruits and veggies to water to add some flavour to it. Cucumber and strawberries are delicious additions! Tea and coffee without sweeteners can be ok, but they are also known for staining teeth. A good way of avoiding this is to drink through a straw, but this isn’t practical when it comes to hot drinks! So try not to drink too much of these and when you do, have plenty of water to rinse your mouth.
Remember, not all snacking is bad. It just comes down to moderation and your snack choices. And be sure to pop into our Greenslopes clinic at least once a year for a deep clean, especially after this recent snacking season. Your smile will thank you for it!