Spring Clean Challenge - Week 3
We took a brief hiatus from posting updates while our office was closed, but we are back at it with our final challenge of the 2018 Spring Clean Challenge! This week, we're calling our challenge the "Soda Swap," and it's your last chance to enter to win our grand prize, a Yeti cooler packed with summer essentials and four tickets to Holiday World and Splashin' Safari! If this is your first time reading about our challenge, take a look back at our previous posts to get up to speed. Here's the rundown for our final challenge:
When you boil it down, three things are needed to establish and maintain excellent oral health. In our previous posts, we've talked about the importance of keeping regular visits with your dentist, and we've also talked about how critical it is to establish good daily hygiene habits to keep your mouth healthy between dental visits. The third factor is one that dentists sometimes fail to discuss in detail with patients, but it is just as important: a healthy diet. What goes into your mouth can be just as important as how regularly you're brushing and flossing, and (obviously) your diet has profound impacts on not only your oral health but your whole-body health as well. For our final challenge, we're setting our crosshairs on one of the most prominent enemies of a healthy mouth and body: soft drinks and sugary, sweetened beverages.
You're probably already thinking, "Man, what a buzzkill. Another dentist who's going to fuss at me about having a Coke." To understand why this is such an issue in our modern diets, let's dip our toes in the shallow end of the science pool for a quick lesson. The mouth is inhabited by various types of bacteria. One particular strain of Streptococcus bacteria is primarily responsible for causing cavities and tooth decay. When these bacteria are exposed to processed or refined sugars, their metabolism kicks into overdrive, and they produce a sticky, acidic byproduct that sticks tightly to the tooth. If not removed, this corrosive gunk lowers the pH in the mouth (i.e., makes your mouth more acidic) and makes the hard, mineralized enamel (the outer shell) of the tooth weaker and more prone to decay.
Here's where sodas and sugary drinks factor in. These beverages are loaded with sugars, specifically sucrose, which is the type of sugar that these bacteria absolutely love. Consuming one 12-ounce can of soda floods the mouth with rocket fuel for harmful bacteria and raises the acidity of the mouth to the point where enamel begins to break down. Thankfully, your body is equipped to fight these increases in acidity. Your saliva (our nice word for spit) contains compounds that can act as buffers to counteract these acids, and trace amounts of fluoride in drinking water, toothpastes, and mouthrinses can help remineralize weakened enamel. However, your body is not equipped to handle a continuous, daily onslaught of the acidic byproducts that these bacteria create when exposed to sugary drinks.
Two quick caveats before we move on: it is especially harmful to sip on a soft drink over an extended time, rather than drinking it in one sitting. Constant sipping keeps the pH (acid level) of the mouth at a dangerous level for an extended period of time, causing more damage to the mouth. Also, don't assume that diet or no-sugar drinks are ideal replacements. These drinks, despite having sugar substitutes are still incredibly acidic. The normal pH in the mouth is around 6.7, whereas the pH of a Diet Coke is 3.39. Each decrease of 1 on the pH scale equals a 10x increase in acidity. This means that a Diet Coke is over 1,000 times more acidic than your saliva!
So what do we do? The answer is simple: get rid of these drinks from our diet. They may taste delicious, but these beverages are kryptonite for a healthy mouth and a healthy body (I could talk for even longer about how these sugary drinks contribute to body-wide sickness). One of the most significant steps a person can take to improve their oral health is to replace sodas and sugary drinks with water. It sounds simple - in fact, it is a simple step - but it is not necessarily easy.
To help you in your efforts to be healthier, we're providing free water bottles to anyone who drops by our office. No appointment is needed, and there is no cost or obligation. Just drop in and we'll send you out the door with a convenient water bottle to keep on hand. In my own life, I've found that keeping a bottle on me throughout the day is a sure-fire way to stay hydrated and keep those cravings for Mountain Dews and sweet teas at a minimum.
That's it! There is much more to a healthy diet than just eliminating soft drinks, but it's a great start. We'll plan to discuss diet and oral health in more detail in the future. This is our final challenge for the 2018 Spring Clean Challenge, and we will be announcing our winner next week! Be sure to drop in and grab a bottle for your chance to be entered for our grand prize. Our other two challenges are still active! You can also call to schedule a new patient visit, or post a photo of you and your family's daily hygiene routine and tag us on Facebook or Instagram (@campbellsvilledentalcare). We've enjoyed seeing your responses, and we're excited to announce our winner next week!