We’ve all been there. Mid-afternoon munchies, late night cravings, between meal hunger pangs… Sometimes you just want a little snack to tide you over. But how do you satisfy your snack cravings without sacrificing good oral health? Dr. Cindy Brayer and our dental hygienist, Tiffany Feger, recently joined Gayle Guyardo on Bloom TV to talk about making healthy snack choices for the health of your teeth.
Chewing gum can help keep your breath fresh and curb between meal hunger pangs, but did you also know that it can help improve your oral health?
“Chewing gum is actually an excellent way to improve your oral health because when you chew gum, it stimulates saliva flow, which neutralizes acids and cleans your teeth,” explains Dr. Cindy Brayer.
“One of the chewing gums that I feel like it’s the best is the Xylitol chewing gum. Xylitol is actually a natural sugar substitute that helps to starve the bacteria that causes cavities, so they die off. So it helps to make your teeth much healthier and your mouth healthier overall.”
“There are a lot of sugar free gums out there,” Dr. Brayer cautions. “So make sure that Xylitol is the first ingredient because other sugar free gums may have artificial sweeteners in them, which is not quite as healthy as Xylitol.”
Good Old H2O
When you sit down to a meal, finish a workout, or find your mouth feeling dry and parched during the day, what is your go-to beverage of choice? If you’re like a lot of people, maybe you reach for an ice cold carbonated soda or a sports drink. Or maybe you prefer healthier options like fruit juices or milk. According to our dental hygienist, Tiffany Feger, the best drink for your teeth is water.
“Water is the best,” Tiffany explains. “It’s the healthiest thing that you can do. Think about it – if someone’s really sick and goes to the hospital or an ambulance, the first thing they will give them as an IV, because we Americans, we drink a lot of junk, and it’s not really hydrating. And since water is clear, [it won’t stain your teeth].”
She also suggests that if you really have a hankering for something other than water, at least drink some water afterward to help rinse your teeth and mouth out.
Taming Your Sweet Tooth
We all know that a healthy diet means limiting sugary snacks, but when a craving for something sweet strikes, what is your best bet? Dr. Brayer believes that when it comes to satisfying the savage sweet tooth, chocolate is an excellent option.
“Choose something that’s going to be softer and will dissolve in your mouth quicker – something like chocolates. These chocolates will actually be much easier, in terms of eating [and are less likely] to cause as many cavities as things like stickier foods or harder foods,” she suggests, adding:
“We know that sticky foods like gummy bears and things like that are just not good for teeth because they’ll get stuck in those nooks and crannies [and] it’s harder to clean them off.”
As for hardy candy options, Dr. Brayer cautions that, “If you bite into something hard, [you run the risk of] breaking your tooth. We see that a lot with our patients that come in after eating a hard candy. And they thought they were sucking on it. Instead, they ended up breaking their tooth off.
Let’s Get Nuts
We just heard from Dr. Brayer that hard snack foods are bad for your teeth, so that must mean that nuts are on the chopping block too, right? Well, yes and no.
“Nuts are a healthy snack,” Tiffany Feger admits. But, she cautions, they can wreak havoc on your teeth if you aren’t careful.
“I just had a patient who came in with a cracked tooth, and we fix it of course, but six months later, she came to me and had another chipped tooth. After asking her some questions, I found out she loves pistachios – the kind in the shell – and she would break them open with their hands. And if she couldn’t, if they were too hard, she would bite through them. She did it so much that she would chip her teeth. So we always recommend getting pre-shelled, sliced, or chopped nuts because those are healthy [and safe for your teeth].”
As for the patient in question, Tiffany I actually bought her some BOGO pre-shelled pistachios so that she can enjoy her favorite snack and still keep her teeth healthy.
Post-Snack Oral Care
Strictly speaking, for optimum oral health you should avoid snacking between meals, since snacking introduces more sugars and acids into your mouth. But if you’re going to snack, Dr. Brayer recommends that, just like regular meals, that you brush and floss afterward.
“From a dental perspective, snacking is [less than ideal] because you’re introducing more sugars and acids in your mouth. But if you’re going to snack, ideally brush and floss afterwards.
If you don’t want to brush [your teeth] five times a day, then what you can do is eat more quickly. Instead of just snacking for an hour, just eat something very fast. This limits the amount of time those sugars and acids are in your mouth. Afterwards, just drink some water just to wash it all down and keep [your teeth] as clean as possible.
Creating Smiles is one of Pinellas County’s leading providers of cosmetic and general dentistry services, including Invisalign, teeth whitening, dental implants, and oral cancer screenings. To schedule your in-office or virtual new patient consultation please call our St. Petersburg office (727-323-0377) or Clearwater office (727-791-8823).