It seems appropriate that October is Dental Hygiene Month since this month does have one of the biggest candy selling holidays in it. However, there are many more things that cause cavities that just candy. It seems that how often you eat can be just as important as what you eat. That is because food can affect your teeth and your mouth long after you swallow it. Eating cookies with dinner will do less harm to your teeth than eating them as a separate snack. Of course, overall poor nutrition can contribute to periodontal (gum) disease. It also can have other long-term effects on your mouth. To prevent tooth decay, you should follow a few additional guidelines. This can help to keep the amount of acid created by the bacteria on your teeth to a minimum. Here are some tips:
1. Limit between-meal snacking. Fewer snacks mean less acid exposure for your teeth. If you snack, choose foods that are not fermentable carbohydrates. Fermentable carbohydrates break down in your mouth. Other foods don’t break down until they move further down the digestive tract. It’s the fermentable carbohydrates that work with bacteria to form acids that begin the decay process and eventually destroy teeth. They include the obvious sugary foods, such as cookies, cakes, soft drinks and candy. But they also include less obvious foods, such as bread, crackers, bananas and breakfast cereal.
u Best Choices – Cheese, chicken, or other meats, or nuts. These foods actually may help protect tooth enamel. They do this by neutralizing acids or by providing the calcium and phosphorus needed to put minerals back in the teeth.
u Moderate choices – Firm fruits such as apples and pears and vegetables. Firm fruits contain natural sugars. However, their high water content dilutes the effects of the sugars. These fruits also stimulate the flow of salvia, which fights bacteria and helps protect against decay. Vegetables do not contain enough carbohyrates to be dangerous.
u Worst Choices- Candy, cookies, cakes, crackers, bread, muffins, potato chips, French fries, pretzels, bananas, raisins, and other dried fruits. These foods provide a source of sugar that certain bacteria can use to produce acid. The problem can be worse if the foods stick to teeth or get caught between them.
2. Limit the amount of soft drinks or any other drinks that contain sugar. These include coffee or tea with added sugar, cocoa and lemonade. Fruit juices contain natural sugars that also can cause decay. Limit the amount of time you take to drink any of these drinks. Avoid sipping them throughout the day. A can of soda that you finish with a meal exposes your teeth to acids for a shorter time than a soda that takes you two hours to drink.
u Better choices – unsweetened tea and water, especially fluoridated water. Tea also has fluoride, which can strengthen tooth enamel. Water helps flush away bits of food. It also can dilute the sugar acids.
3. Avoid sucking on hard candies or mints, even the tiny ones. They have enough sugar to increase the acid produced by bacteria to decay levels. If you need a mint, use the sugarless varities.
4. Limit very acidic foods because they can make the mouth more acidic. This may contribute to a loss of minerals in the teeth. The effects of acid exposure add up over a time. Every little bit counts.
5. Brush your teeth after eating and after drinking sugary drinks, to remove the plaque bacteria that create the destructive acids. If you cannot brush after every meal, brush at least twice a day.
6. Chew sugarless gum that contains xylitol. This can help reduce the risk of cavities. The gum helps dislodge some of the food stuck to your teeth. It also increases saliva flow to help neutralize the acids.
Article adapted from: Simple Steps to Better Dental Health
Santa Fe Skillet Casserole
1 pound ground round
3/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 1/2 cups uncooked instant rice
1 1/2 cups low-salt beef broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (14.5 ounce) can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes, undrained
3/4 cup (3 ounces) reduced-fat shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
u Combine first 3 ingredients in a large nonstick skillet; cook over medium-high heat until beef is browned and vegetables are tender, stirring to crumble beef. (Do not drain.)
u Add rice and next 4 ingredients. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle with cheese; serve immediately. Yield: 6 servings.
Per Serving: Calories 346, Fat 15.8g, Protein 21.1g, Carbohydrates 28.5g, Fiber 2.1g, Cholesterol 62mg, Sodium 488mg, Exchanges: 1 1/2 Starch, 1 Vegetable, 3 medium-Fat meat
Pamela Redwine is a nutrition and food safety agent with the MSU Extension Service. Provided by the Oktibbeha County Extension Service. Call (662) 323-5916.