Going “Beast Mode” on your teeth!

Dr. Garrett here.  Yesterday was an amazing day for football fans in the Pacific Northwest, as our Seattle Seahawks won their first ever Super Bowl!  They crushed their opponent, the Denver Broncos, and carried the spirit of the 12th man all the way to the East Coast.  One of my favorite players on the team is Marshawn Lynch.  His trademark “Beast Mode” style of running the football is a joy for any football fan to watch.  As we learned throughout the season, Lynch has an affinity for Skittles, and relies on them throughout the game to keep his energy up.

Now, as a dentist, anytime I see Skittles being chowed down I can’t help but cringe.  They are, like many candies, packed to the brim with cavity-causing ingredients.  One regular-sized bag of Skittles contains 46g of sugar!!  That’s seven more grams than you would consume in a 12 oz can of Coke.  It’s equivalent to eating about 12 sugar cubes!!  Needless to say, it’s a ton of sugar.  Certain bacteria in our mouths that reside in dental plaque, feed off of the sugars we consume.  The by-product is an acid that slowly erodes away our teeth, causing cavities.  In addition, Skittles contain citric acid, which drastically reduces the pH level of our saliva.  pH is a measure of the acidity of a solution, with a low pH indicating a solution that is acidic.  Water has a pH of 7.8 and battery acid has a pH of 1.0.  Skittles have a pH of about 2.5!!  The pH at which teeth start to decay is 4.0, so you can easily see why Skittles can be so harmful to your teeth.  Luckily, we have a natural defense called saliva.  Saliva helps to buffer the acids in our mouths and slowly raise the pH level back to normal levels after we eat.  The problem arises when our saliva can’t keep up.  This is seen in people who snack throughout the day, or don’t remove the plaque build up from their teeth.  These people have a constantly low pH in their mouths and have a much higher chance of dental decay and erosion.

“But Dr. Garrett they taste so good…and I have to eat them when I watch the game!!”  I know, I know.  You’re going to eat your Skittles or whatever other candies or high sugar containing foods.  So what are some preventative strategies to minimize the effect of these types of food on your teeth (other than not eating them at all!)?

  • Do not suck or chew candies for long periods of time, get it over with quickly!
  • Swish or rinse mouth immediately with water after eating candies.
  • Milk or hard cheese after eating candies can help neutralize the acid.
  • Chew sugar-free natural mint gum with xylitol to help promote salivary flow and make the bacteria less sticky.
  • Wait 30-60 minutes after eating candies to brush your teeth in order to avoid scratching the acid-softened surface.
  • Use a fluoride toothpaste with low abrasiveness (no whitening toothpastes).

So go ahead and join Marshawn Lynch in his Skittles binge if you must, but remember these helpful tips in order to prevent those cavity causing bacteria from going Beast Mode on your teeth!!

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