Seriously, who wants cavities? They come with a host of other problems (like pain!) and cost money when we turn to the dentist to fix them. In fact, tooth problems have been an ancient concern.
I recently visited a museum that houses 2 mummies. One of the two individuals passed away due to a tooth infection. Her story reminded me of a documentary I saw when I was 7.
This documentary was also about ancient Egypt; it featured a mummy who also passed away from a tooth infection which spread to her brain. Since then I knew brushing teeth was honestly serious business…. but what other steps can we take to protect our teeth?
The Business of Cavities
In my mother-tongue, a cavity translates to “a bug in the tooth”. That doesn’t sound so appealing but it isn’t far-fetched either! A cavity is a hole in the tooth caused by tooth decay. We may not have literal bugs in our teeth, imagining of which would make my 5-year-old self-quiver, but we do have plenty (and I mean PLENTY) of bacteria in our mouth. The good news is that not all of them are bad, but the bad news is some of them are, and they contribute to tooth-decay and the formation of cavities!
How Cavities Can Form
Sugar -> Cavities
One way we can get cavities is if the bad bacteria in the mouth feast on the sugars that land in our mouth. While doing so, they produce acid which then produces holes in the teeth. Knowing this, it makes sense why limiting or eliminating sugar is bound to help prevent cavities. Another tip my dentist gave me is to make sure I rinse my mouth well after eating anything, especially sugary foods.
Minerals in our saliva, such as calcium and phosphates, help protect the enamel (the layer that surrounds our teeth and protects it) by supporting its repair. Knowing this sheds light on why nutritional deficiencies can lead to cavities. We want to make sure we are getting enough minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus in our diets.
Phytic Acid and Nutritional Deficiencies
We also want to be mindful when consuming foods high in phytic acid. This category can also include nuts. This may come as a surprise, as nuts are so essential to a healthy diet, especially for those who are vegetarian or raw food eaters. Yet there are ways we can enjoy these foods while keeping away the negative effects of phytic acid.
Phytic acid stores phosphorus in plants. It is present in “all edible seeds, grains, legumes, and nuts.” Phytic acid has a bad reputation as an anti-nutrient as it blocks minerals. According to Authority Nutrition, “phytic acid impairs the absorption of iron, zinc, and calcium, and may promote mineral deficiencies.” It can also draw out the ones already in our bodies.
As we discussed earlier, nutrient and mineral deficiencies can cause and worsen cavities. It’s no wonder why this effect of phytic acid is troublesome for avoiding and healing cavities. But wait a second, is it a complete villain?
Phytic acid only has the antinutrient effect on the body as its being consumed and processed, not long after. Therefore, it should be okay as long as we aren’t having it at every meal. In fact, some argue that phytic acid has positive effects as well, such as it being an antioxidant, having anti-cancerous abilities, and helping with cholesterol and blood sugar. We can lessen or completely get rid of phytic acid by preparing foods in specific ways.
More Tips on Prevention
Xlyitol in Sugar-Free Gum
New Research shows that sugar-free gum, specifically the one which uses xylitol in place of sugar, helps prevent cavities. Xylitol works against the buildup of plaque. It also fights bacteria that cause cavities. All the chewing also produces more saliva, which lowers the amount of bacteria.
Rinsing our mouths after eating is a very helpful practice. It removes any bits of food stuck in our mouths and helps move sugar off our teeth, which helps prevent cavities. Swishing our mouths with a water and salt rinse can also help, as it works as an antibacterial.
Flossing, as burdensome as it may feel, can also help prevent painful cavities. Cavities can form in between the teeth, and they can be very painful. Using a brush with soft bristles also helps. The bristles can work on the surfaces of the teeth better, and their soft nature can lead to longer brushing times. We can also try oil-pulling, as it draws out bacteria and the like from our mouths.
Foods to Help Prevent Cavities
You may already love sipping your green tea, but I bet you’d like it even more by knowing that it helps prevent cavities. In fact, both green tea and black tea can have this effect when consumed after having something sweet. According to medical daily, having these drinks (without milk or sweeteners) can prevent plaque build up and stop the growth of bacteria.
They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but it may also help keep the dentist away as well! Eating this low-glycemic yet delicious fruit stimulates saliva, which then decreases the levels of bacteria. Less bacteria lead to less cavities
Filling the Hole on Cavities
We can take these steps and make some dietary changes to take better care of our teeth and help prevent cavities. The mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body, and as my dentist says, taking care of what goes on there helps ensure better health throughout the body. So let’s get munching on that apple, and greeting our teeth with healthy food for happier teeth today and tomorrow!