Sweets aren't the only thing causing cavities

August 9, 2011 8:44:04 PM PDT
Some advice tonight on avoiding cavities -- not just for kids, but adults, too. These recommendations go beyond what you learned as a child.

Growing up, we were taught to avoid sweets to prevent cavities, but it turns out, they're not the only culprits.

"Believe it or not, that whole thing goes back to acid. Tooth decay results from acid," said Carole Palmer, R.D. from Tufts University.

And the higher the acidity or pH level in your mouth, the more vulnerable your teeth become.

"You want to keep your pH about a 5.5 because anything lower than a 5.5 can actually start to break the enamel surface on your tooth," said Dental Consultant Nicole Holland, DDS.

Holland says the common culprits are "coffees, teas, Gatorades, energy drinks."

They all make your mouth more acidic. So do fresh and dried fruits, fruit juices, non-dairy creamers, grain products like pastries and even beer.

"What you have to think about is not so much the food, but how it's appearing in your mouth over time," said Palmer.

Which means you should avoid snacking on those foods throughout the day, giving your mouth a chance to neutralize between meals.

"Don't immediately go and brush your teeth right after. You want to drink water to neutralize the acid. Give it a little bit of time," said Holland.

Experts also recommend drinking through a straw when possible and eating foods like cheese that will raise your mouth's pH level, helping to protect your teeth.

"The calcium and phosphorus in the cheese helps stop the acid reaction. Peanuts and nuts, chewing nuts, also have been shown in some studies to have a beneficial effect," said Palmer.

One other note, doctors say brushing with fluoride-- even as adults-- strengthens tooth enamel, making it harder for acid to break it down.

Written and produced by Tim Didion

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