Exercise your choppers on some good, hard food

by Karen Bowen

Every time you open your mouth, people notice … your teeth.

If yours are still homegrown, now’s the time to ensure they keep hanging in there. Nobody wants to lose their teeth.

Fortunately as North Americans we have access to distinguished dental care, so you don’t have to lose them unless it’s for neglect.

Some people’s teeth break off or fall out because of cavities. Not many people I know haven’t had at least one – they’re caused by a combination of many factors: bacteria living in plaque; saliva; minerals that form your teeth; and the foods sitting in your mouth after each swallow.

Some think only sweets cause cavities. Actually, both sugars and starches can, since they both start breaking down into sugars while in the mouth. A fermentation process produces an acid that breaks down tooth enamel. But, it doesn’t have to happen. It just depends on how long food stays in your mouth.

Sticky foods hang around longer so they obviously keep forming acid longer. Foods cleared from the mouth quickly don’t make as much acid. So, gulping down a pop is better for your teeth than sipping it slowly, and much better than savoring a pastry or toffee. If you’re worried about cavities, you should stay away from all sticky foods – even dried fruit.

Something else to think about is how often do you eat?

The bacteria in your mouth will produce acid for 20 to 30 minutes after you eat. If you eat three pieces of candy at one time your teeth have acid on them for about 30 minutes. But, you eat three pieces – one every half hour – your teeth endure a 90 minute acid wash.

Non-sugary foods can scrub your teeth clean. So, it’s better to eat sweets with meals, and not between meals.

Brushing is obviously ideal in a perfect world, but if you can’t brush after you eat, chew some sugarless gum to clean your teeth. (As an added perk it will also stimulate your gums.) But, don’t use chewing tobacco. It damages your gums, tooth surfaces and jawbone.

Smoking is no substitute either mind you. It causes gum disease leading to tooth loss. If you’re trying to quit by using nicotine gum, don’t chew it when you’re eating. Certain acidic foods don’t let your body absorb the nicotine through your mouth’s lining. For the best results, don’t eat or drink for 15 minutes before or while chewing the nicotine gum.

What nutrients will keep your mouth healthy? I’m sure you think about calcium when you think about your teeth. But, you also need Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Niacin.

If you don’t get enough Vitamin A, your body can’t make the enamel for the surface of your teeth. Cracks form in your teeth, giving cavities a place to start. And the cells that form dentin – the interior of your teeth – start to die. As well, your jawbone will become weaker so the roots of your teeth won’t be held as tightly.

You can get Vitamin A from: fortified milk, cheese, cream, butter, fortified margarine, eggs, liver, spinach, dark leafy greens, broccoli, deep orange fruits and vegetables (such as apricots, cantaloupe, squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin).

If you don’t get enough Vitamin C, your gums start to bleed and your teeth become loose.

For this vitamin, eat: citrus fruit, cabbage-type vegetables, dark green vegetables, cantaloupe, strawberries, peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, papayas, and mangoes.

Store these foods carefully – Vitamin C is easily destroyed by heat and Oxygen.

Take a look at your tongue, if it’s swollen, smooth, and bright red, you need more Niacin. Eat more milk products, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, whole grain and enriched breads and cereals, nuts, and all protein-containing foods.

If you haven’t had a dental check-up within the last two years, it may be time to take that dreaded trip to the dentist.

Check this out…

Do you have a dry mouth? Have trouble eating? Have sores or lumps in your mouth? Have tooth or mouth pain? Have you changed your food selections because some things are easier to chew?

If you said Yes to any of these questions … it’s time to ‘bite the bullet,’ and make an appointment.

If you’ve already got dentures in place of your own ‘pearly whites,’ you know they’re better than nothing, but not as good as the real thing.

Because of this, you may already have changed what you eat. This isn’t necessarily bad if you replaced corn on the cob with creamed corn; apples with applesauce; and hard rolls with rice. At lease most of the nutrients are still there.

If you’ve dropped a food group, however, you’ve affected your nutritional balance. As well – your vitamins, minerals and fibre likely went down the tubes (please excuse my pun).

Make the effort to eat a balanced diet.

If you’re fortunate enough to have the originals – don’t forget about brushing and flossing.

If you use a mouthwash with fluoride, your teeth will start to repair themselves.

Take care of your teeth, so you can smile when you say, “Cheese,” next time you run into a Truck News photographer.

Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at karen_bowen@yahoo.com.


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