Why some foods cause Dental Caries?

On today’s occasion of International Dentist Day, I would like to write about a dental problem that affects millions of people worldwide- Dental Caries. Why Roti, Rice etc. are not blamed to cause caries while Candies and cakes are believed to be cariogenic when both these groups have Carbohydrates? This was something that I found interesting when I learned it.. So I have written this blog for my Layman friends. If you are a senior or a doctor reading this, please tell me what you think about it and guide me!

What are Caries?

Dental Caries is a Multifactorial, transmissible infectious oral disease caused by complex interaction of cariogenic oral flora (biofilm) with Fermentable dietary carbohydrates on tooth surface over time.

How Caries Occur?

Our mouth houses a number of bacteria that are normal commensals of the oral cavity. The bacteria form a layer called plaque on the surface of our  teeth. Fermentation of dietary sugars leads to formation of acid. This acid dissolves the minerals inside Tooth Enamel in a process called Demineralization. Bacteria aid in fermentation and digestion of sugars but also in the Demineralization of teeth.

This is normally balanced by another natural process called Remineralization. Saliva, fluoride and some other foods help in Remineralization.

Tooth decay starts when this balance is disturbed and minerals are lost faster than they are regained.
Why Fermentable Sugars cause Caries?

Those carbohydrates that undergo breakdown to simpler products inside the oral cavity are called Fermentable sugars. Other carbohydrates can’t be digested until they reach the intestine. Hence those don’t contribute to acid produced around teeth that causes decay.Other factors:
Well, it’s not just the type of sugar that determines its ability to cause caries. Studies have shown that people who eat sweets as snacks between meals have higher incidences of caries than those who eat the same sweets along with their meal.

  • How long the food stays around the teeth is also important. Sticky foods are known to cause caries faster. Also the food that gets lodged in crevices causes more damage.
  • These foods not only damage the teeth while they are being eaten but the acid produced by them stays around for some time and continues its action.
  • Sometimes the Anatomy of the tooth also can be such that it promotes food lodgement. For example deep pits and fissures.
  • Foods that lead to production of more saliva will help in prevention of caries. This includes food that needs to be chewed more.
Occurence of caries is a complex process and there are many more factors that govern it, one of them being Genetic- which means some individuals are more prone to caries than others.

Effect of Saliva:
  • Saliva flushes away the food.
  • Saliva has buffering action on the acid produced.
  • Saliva has natural antibacterial effects.

Best Foods:
  • Milk and cheese provide calcium phosphate and casein which prevent Demineralization of enamel. Lactose in milk is one of the least cariogenic carbs.
  • Chewing on Sugar Cane and spitting out its fibre is a great way of keeping good oral health. (If you can’t bite offal sugar can then it’s time to visit your Dentist!)
  • Fibrous foods like vegetables and grains natural protective factors like Organic and inorganic phosphates, polyphenols, phytates and other non- digestible fibers which also stimulates salivary flow.
  • Strawberry and bananas have Xylitol which has remarkable anticariogenic effect.
  • Tea: Green, Oolong and black teas contain fluoride and polyphenols or flavonoids which suppress bacterial growth and reduce acidogenic potential of Sucrose.
  • Rock salt, Tea leaves, Potatoes, Jowar and bananas are natural sources of Fluoride.

Prevention of Caries:How long the food stays around the teeth is important. So Brushing at night becomes very very important. During the day we keep drinking water or talking which leads to production of saliva. But during night, if we do not brush, food will stay there for hours. Plus saliva production is slow during sleep. All this provides suitable conditions for bacteria to flourish and cause decay. Therefore we must atlest rince our mouth properly after each meal.
Proper oral hygiene should be maintained. Cleaning in inter dental areas is important. Professional tooth cleaning is recommended for patients who are at high risk for caries Development.Fluorinated Community Water is effective. Caries Vaccine is among the modern methods of Caries prevention.
This blog is just me scratching the surface of this vast subject. I hope you found value from that blog.
Thanks for reading! Do comment if you like and share it!